Senator Bob Smith
Statement for Hearing on “Project Delivery and Environmental Stewardship–
Progress on Environmental Streamlining under TEA-21
September 19, 2002
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome to our witnesses
Progress on implementing the TEA-21 Environmental Streamlining provisions, Section 1309, has been a challenge. TEA-21 was authorized over 4 years ago, and implementing regulations have not yet been issued.
On their own initiative, with support from DOT, a number of States have developed improved project delivery and environmental management systems, demonstrating that Section 1309 is not only a laudable goal but a practical reality.
I believe we all recognize that delays in the delivery of highway projects can cause severe economic impact, increased congestion and accidents, and higher construction costs.
In addition to the states and DOT, other Federal agencies, especially those under EPW jurisdiction (Corps, EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service) must do better to make streamlining a priority.
So I am very pleased that President Bush issued this executive order which I believe will make huge strides in implementing the fundamental elements of section 1309, including:
Integrated review of environmental regulations or concurrent reviews;
Full and early participation by all relevant agencies;
Coordinated time schedules; and,
Dispute resolution procedures.
Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to include a copy of Executive Order titled “Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Reviews,” dated September 18, in the record of this hearing.
I would also like to acknowledge today some important work being undertaken by the Western Governor’s Association, and led by Governors Leavitt of Utah and Kitzhaber of Oregon, to reform the NEPA process.
This effort is called “Enlibra” and being undertaken in a growing number of states. At the heart of “Enlibra” is a set of principles that I believe could help guide our effort to streamline highway project delivery and improve environmental stewardship.
These principles provide a common-sense approach to making progress on streamlining and improving our protection of the environment.
They emphasize the need to reward results (project construction and environmental stewardship), and not red-tape process and procedures.
They recognize the need to promote collaboration, not polarization; and the need to support national standards yet allow flexibility for local solutions.
They also promote basic conservative principles of sound science and economics.
I ask unanimous consent to include a copy of the Enlibra principles in the record of this hearing.
Lastly, I’d like to make a few remarks about New Hampshire’s I-93 highway widening.
The widening of I-93 is the State’s highway priority project. It experiences daily rush-hour congestion and there are serious safety concerns.
In 2000, Congress designated I-93 a National Environmental Streamlining Pilot Project.
I’d like to applaud Carol Murray and the other members of the I-93 Board of Directors, which was created to develop a streamlined and environmental sound project.
Your efforts have led to greater trust, reduced delays, and provided for a rapid dispute resolution process.
It is unfortunate, however, that U.S. EPA cannot join the other agencies in either a consensus or negotiated package of wetlands mitigation and continues to demand that DOT purchase over $50 million (dollars) worth of land for conservation.
I do not want to see transportation projects used as a back door to fund federal conservation programs.
This certainly appears unreasonable, and I hope today’s hearing will provide us guidance for how we may resolve this, and other streamlining issues.
T National Standards, Neighborhood Solutions - Assign Responsibilities at the Right Level
NEPA is basically sound--the Act does not need to be changed. Local areas, however, need flexibility, with accountability, to address local environmental, economic and social conditions.
T Collaboration, Not Polarization - Use Collaborative Processes to Break Down Barriers and Find Solutions
Increase public involvement early in the transportation planning and NEPA process, and close legal loopholes used for disruptive and special interest lawsuits. Collaborative approaches produce longer-term solutions and save money.
T Reward Results, Not Programs - Move to a Performance- Based System
Eliminate unnecessary paperwork and procedures, while rewarding better accountability, environmental protection and faster transportation project delivery.
T Science For Facts, Process for Priorities - Separate Subjective Choices from Objective Data Gathering
Use sound science, engineering and economics to assess the impact of transportation projects on the environment and economy. Increase State and local use of GIS to provide better location information on environmental and historical resources.
T Markets Before Mandates - Pursue Economic Incentives Whenever Appropriate
Market incentives can encourage more cost-effective and sustainable solutions to the environmental impacts of transportation projects
T Change A Heart, Change A Nation - Environmental Understanding is Crucial
Ultimately, environmental protection depends on the transportation choices people make every day. Government has a role in educating people about the impact their transportation choices have on the environment.
T Recognition of Benefits and Costs - Make Sure All Decisions Affecting Infrastructure, Development and Environment are Fully Informed
Decisions should be guided by an assessment of the true environmental and transportation costs and benefits. These assessments, with equal consideration of non-qualitative factors, can illustrate the advantages of different options.
T Solutions Transcend Political Boundaries - Use Appropriate Geographic Boundaries for Environmental Problems
Focusing on the natural boundaries, or watershed, of the transportation project can help insure that the full range of scientific, economic, and political factors and interests are taken into consideration.