August 26, 2005
It permits certain states to assume the duties of the Secretary of Transportation in conducting environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA. Each federally funded transportation project undergoes a review to ensure the project meets the NEPA requirements. Under the bill, the state may now take on this responsibility directly, rather than relying on a federal agency to represent the state or local government.
"This new provision is considered a pilot program and only Alaska and four other states are allowed to apply it and see how well it will work," said DOT Commissioner Mike Barton. "The new program will not change the rulebook, nor will it change the jurisdiction of federal courts to hear and decide any legal challenges to decisions rendered by the state in applying the NEPA requirements. We are delighted to have been selected to participate in this pilot program. Our experiences and circumstances are somewhat different from the other states in the program - California, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas - but the Congress should get a clear picture of how well it will work over the six years it is authorized."
Barton said it will take at
least a year for the new provision to take effect. The law provides
nine months for writing the supporting federal regulations.
After that, the state must file an application with public notice
of the intent to assume the new duties. In its application,
the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
must demonstrate that it has the legal authority, staff and budget
to take over this responsibility.
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