State and local transportation agencies are seeking the creation of 266 categorical exclusions (CEs) under NEPA to expedite new transportation-related projects. A new report, U.S. Department of Transportation National Environmental Policy Act Categorical Exclusion Survey Review, concludes that CEs are key to any environmental streamlining strategy.
CE means a category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have significant environmental effects. CEs, if available, avoid costly and time-consuming environmental assessments or environmental impact statements under NEPA.
The report includes a listing of the types of actions for which new CEs may be sought:
- safety and operations;
- maintenance and preservation actions;
- activities within existing right-of-way or urban areas;
- rehabilitation and reconstruction;
- environmental mitigation;
- bicycle and pedestrian facilities;
- utilities, lighting, and signage;
- actions consistent with existing plans or land use and those approved by other agencies;
- culverts and waterways;
- excess right-of-way;
- activities with limited federal involvement/funding;
- activities under a certain size/cost threshold;
- alternative energy;
- geotechnical work;
- aesthetic treatments;
- ferries; and
The report said the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Authority "will evaluate and determine which of these requested CEs are not otherwise duplicative, meet regulatory requirements and can be substantiated" as recommended by the Council on Environmental Quality's NEPA guidance. The department will then issue a notice of proposed rulemaking containing a description of each proposed new CE and requesting public comments.
The report, U.S. Department of Transportation National Environmental Policy Act Categorical Exclusion Survey Review, is available at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/MAP21/sec1318report.pdf.