Tom Ewing’s Regulatory Review

DOT’s Office of the Secretary has started an important process to develop and advance new transportation technologies.  On July 28 Secretary Chao’s office announced the availability of a new document on which the agency is seeking comments.  The doc is called “Pathways to the Future of Transportation.”  It’s important on its own and it’s also worth noting that the doc originates from DOT’s new internal council called the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council, mentioned by Sec. Chao at the Uber Elevate symposium in June 2019.  In the FR Notice DOT writes that NETT is charged with “identifying and resolving jurisdictional and regulatory gaps that may impede the deployment of new technology, such as tunneling, hyperloop, autonomous vehicles, and other innovations.”  The Pathways document presents the purposes of the NETT Council and how it will work within the overall Department and how the NETT Council will engage with innovators and entrepreneurs “to enhance the Nation’s transportation system.”  You can download the Pathways report from the NETT link (above).  Comments are due by September 28.

The Maritime Administration (MARAD) will hold a public meeting on August 18 to help complete its work on a new Voluntary Tanker Agreement (VTA).  This will be a virtual meeting, via teleconference and web conference.  To participate, register by August 14 with Rhonda Davis at (202)-309–9775 or  The VTA was established in 1950, and last amended in 2008.  The VTA establishes a partnership between US commercial tanker owners and operators to voluntarily make their vessels available to satisfy Department of Defense needs.  It is designed to meet contingency or war requirements for point-to-point petroleum, oils and lubricants movements.  It does not deal with capacity shortages in resupply operations.  The proposed VTA was published in the Federal Register last November 1.  Because the new text contains changes, former and new participants must submit a new application once the draft text is finalized and published.

The US Forest Service (FS), part of the Department of Agriculture, announced on July 30 that it will prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for a 3.5 mile portion of the 303.5 mile Mountain Valley Pipeline project.  That segment crosses the Jefferson National Forest (JNF) in West Virginia and Virginia.  The environmental work was complete, but portions impacting the JNF were struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The SEIS will take a relook at 11 criteria within the pipeline corridor.  The criteria include soil, water, threatened and endangered species, old growth and scenic integrity.  The Draft SEIS is expected to be ready in September 2020 with a final likely ready before the end of the year.

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