On August 10, 2005, the Safe Affordable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act – Legacy of Users (SAFETEA-LU) was signed by President George W. Bush. This legislation was important for many reasons, including providing provisions and earmarks intended to improve and maintain the surface transportation infrastructure throughout the United States. Aside from funding allocation, SAFETEA-LU was the first time that individual states were allowed to assume certain federal responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and five states participated in the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Pilot Program (Program). Under this Program, states were able to assume responsibilities for conducting environmental reviews, consultations, or other actions, such as environmental approvals, once a Memorandum of Understanding was executed between the State and the US Department of Transportation. The success of this pilot program resulted in the Program becoming permanent under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, also known as MAP-21, which was signed by President Barack Obama on July 6, 2012.
NEPA Assignment Links
NDOT’s Desire to Participate in the NEPA Assignment Program
On April 27, 2017, Governor Ricketts signed State Bill LB271 into law. This essential legislation provided a limited waiver of Nebraska’s sovereign immunity, and would mark the beginning of NDOT’s pursuit of NEPA Assignment. States have the opportunity to assume responsibilities for either Categorical Exclusions (CEs) under 23 USC 326, or the full NEPA Program (also includes Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements) under 23 USC 327. NDOT has been working jointly with FHWA Headquarters and Nebraska Division since the summer of 2017 to assess NDOT’s readiness to assume NEPA responsibilities. After careful evaluation, NDOT will pursue both CE and full NEPA Program assignment as separate, but simultaneous efforts.
NDOT’s Next Steps for NEPA Assignment
NDOT has begun working on documentation and process improvements, all necessary to successfully administer environmental reviews on behalf of FHWA and to assume the legal responsibility and liability for those reviews. NDOT will continue to regularly coordinate with FHWA at both the Nebraska Division and Headquarters level to ensure that NDOT will be well-equipped once an MOU is executed. NDOT will also engage its stakeholders, including resource and regulatory agencies, cities, counties, and the public to understand and address any questions and concerns that arise.
Spring 2018 – MOU for CE Assignment (23 USC 326)
Fall 2018 – Submit application for full NEPA Assignment (23 USC 327)