By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs & assistant general counsel, ARTBA

The President’s Council on Environmental Quality Aug. 1 directed federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Transportation, to consider greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) project reviews.

ARTBA raised concerns about this policy more than a year ago, noting that NEPA did not contain the proper regulatory tools for dealing with climate change when it was enacted in 1969.

“NEPA is designed to deal with the present, not the future and was designed to account for the direct impacts of federal actions,” ARTBA wrote in March 25, 2015 comments. “For transportation projects, this means tangible effects on the environment, such as removal of wetlands and impacts to wildlife. Climate change impacts, however, are different.  They are speculative and may not be realized until long after a project is completed.”

ARTBA is also concerned this increased regulatory burden will undo some bipartisan progress made in the area of reducing project delay in the past three surface transportation reauthorization bills. While the guidance has yet to be implemented, ARTBA will monitor this situation closely in order to determine the impacts on the transportation construction community.