FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2023
APWA President Urges U.S. House Panel to Update National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
Washington D.C.—Faced with “administrative burdens” that frequently “overwhelm” public works departments throughout the United States, the president of the world’s largest organization of public works professionals today urged a U.S. House committee to “update” the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, with eight recommendations.
“NEPA is important to public works professionals and serves as the regulatory framework for protecting America’s environment while allowing vital infrastructure projects to be undertaken,” American Public Works Association President Keith Pugh, PE, PWLF, said in testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources. “Like any policy that has been in place for five decades, NEPA should be updated to address current societal needs.”
Pugh said NEPA’s requirements, however, add endless time and money to already expensive infrastructure projects.
Citing the Council on Environmental Quality, Pugh told committee members the average length of a federal highway Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was 645 pages and the average time to conduct NEPA reviews was 7.3 years.
“In my experience, any time federal funds were introduced into a project, we immediately added at least 25 percent to the project budget,” said Pugh, who also is government affairs director for WithersRavenel, NC. “However, the final cost could be significantly higher than that due to the administrative burdens placed on the local government, the design professionals working on the project, the contractor, and the inspection close-out process.
“Public works professionals are doing what is best for their communities despite an array of challenges, and APWA places a high priority on respecting and enhancing local control for infrastructure projects,” Pugh said.
Pugh said APWA supports:
Establishing a lead federal agency to develop a joint review schedule and preparation of a single environmental document and joint record of decision for projects that require multi-agency reviews.
Establishing time limits of two years for completion of Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) and one year for Environmental Assessments (EA).
Establishing a 300-page limit for EIS of “extraordinary complexity” and a 75-page limit for each EA.
Extending the completion period with the approval of the applicant when necessary to allow for further consultation with local agencies.
Bringing the statute of limitations for NEPA cases in line with other environmental statutes (120 days).
Reducing duplicative reporting by allowing adherence to state or even local standards often equally or more stringent than federal rules to be used as evidence of compliance with federal standards.
Examining a reasonable number of alternatives for projects that are technically and economically feasible, including, if considered, an analysis of any negative environmental impacts of a no action alternative.
Clarifying that the environmental review process should consider any proposed action within the context of past, present, and “reasonably foreseeable” effects.
The American Public Works Association (www.apwa.net) is a not-for-profit, international organization of more than 30,000 members involved in the field of public works. APWA serves its members by promoting professional excellence and public awareness through education, advocacy, and the exchange of knowledge. APWA is headquartered in Kansas City, MO, has an office in Washington, D.C., and 63 chapters and 97 branches throughout North America.
APWA Government Affairs Media Manager
(202) 218-6736; email@example.com