May 27, 2020
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On December 5, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a 98-page final rule codifying reforms to its rulemaking, guidance, and enforcement practices.

The rule’s major components include permanently incorporating President Trump’s policy on regulatory budgeting – the “2-for-1” plan, where two rules are repealed for every new one issued – and clarifies that the USDOT guidance documents “do not impose legal obligations and shall not be used as a basis for enforcement.”

The new final rule also ensures due process protections for potential subjects of enforcement actions, the agency said, including open and fair investigations as well as proceedings.

USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao

“When rules are outdated, duplicative, overly complex and contradictory, they harm the cause of safety and effectiveness. This effort enhances the department’s regulatory process by providing greater transparency and strengthening due process in enforcement actions,” noted USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement.

“USDOT is leading the way in reforming not just individual regulations, but the process by which we regulate,” she added. “This ‘rule on rules’ is an example of the type of good government embraced by this administration. It will continue to aid the department in promoting clear and effective engagements with all those who are impacted by USDOT regulations, which touch on all forms of transportation.”

This is but the latest step in a long-term effort by USDOT to not only simplify its regulatory structure but reduce paperwork associated with those rules as well.

In August, the agency issued a federal register notice that sought comment on two “interim” policies: one to limit environmental impact statements to a maximum of 150 pages – with a recommendation that they “not exceed” 75 pages – and the other to coordinate those federal reviews under the “One Federal Decision” executive order with a goal of completing them within two years.

In February, USDOT filed a Federal Register notice aimed at reviewing its existing regulatory guidance documents to evaluate them for “continued necessity,” as well as to determine whether the guidance needs to be updated or revised.

In November 2018, USDOT officially issued a 131-page final rule to amend Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration regulations regarding the implementation of National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA requirements along with other environmental protocols – steps the agency believes will “accelerate” transportation project delivery times.

editor@aashto.org

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