Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

US DOT received plenty of comments in response to the request – from the Secretary’s office – for “comments identifying unnecessary obstacles to transportation infrastructure projects that are contained in the Department’s policy statements, guidance documents, and regulations,” part of the President’s far reaching, cross-departmental effort at substantive regulatory reform.  This is surely a unique chance to get good ideas into the open and to position those ideas for action.  One DOT agency held a regulatory reform “listening session” last week to hear from stakeholders regarding initial reforms the agency has identified.

*  The focus on infrastructure was affirmed again last week with a new Executive Order “Establishing a Presidential Advisory Council on Infrastructure.”  The Council will have “not more than” 15 members, appointed by the President, and “drawn from the public with relevant experience or subject-matter expertise to represent the interests of the following infrastructure sectors,” a list including finance, labor, construction, environmental policy and economic development.  Interestingly, the Department of Commerce is given the lead role here.  It’s the Commerce Secretary, not Transportation, who has to prepare the basic questions, due in 60 days, setting a basis for the Council’s work.  One important task: “developing funding and financing options capable of generating new infrastructure investment over the next 10 years.”

*  Another important policy follow up and update was presented last week.  Remember the controversy with the “Waters of the United States” when the new Administration took over and ordered substantive changes?  EPA and the Department of the Army presented a proposed rule that describes and outlines next steps.  Actually it’s a two-part process that stays the changes proposed by the Obama Administration while challenges are reviewed by federal Courts.  A second step will start a new round of rule-making to conduct “a substantive reevaluation of the definition of ‘waters of the United States’.’’

Tom Ewing
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