September 24, 2023
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The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials sent a 35-page letter to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on November 18 in support of changes to the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA proposed in early October.

[Above image via the CEQ]

In addition to acknowledging AASHTO’s extensive prior comments regarding NEPA, the association’s letter included specific recommendations regarding CEQ’s latest proposed changes, especially in terms of “respecting the need for agency flexibility” and the special statutory frameworks that apply to many transportation projects.

“AASHTO is generally supportive of the changes in the notice of proposed rulemaking [as] CEQ proposes to restore the provision on purpose and need in the 1978 NEPA regulations,” the organization said in its letter. “AASHTO supports this change because it clarifies that lead agencies have considerable discretion to determine the purpose and need of a proposed action and it provides greater flexibility to lead agencies in carrying out NEPA.”

AASHTO noted that CEQ proposes to delete provisions in the 2020 NEPA regulations that collectively provide a “ceiling” rather than a “floor” for NEPA implementing procedures by other federal agencies.

“Restoring the substance of the 1978 NEPA regulations would allow other federal agencies to develop procedures beyond the requirements of CEQ’s NEPA regulations while still in conformity with NEPA,” the organization said.

“AASHTO supports this change,” the group added. “In addition to providing regulatory certainty, CEQ’s NEPA regulations should give agencies flexibility to carry out the NEPA process in light of variations in the legal requirements applicable to different agencies and project types.”

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