By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA

ARTBA Board Member Matt Girard of Plenary Group testified at a Feb. 11 federal hearing in Denver about how one of the nation’s oldest environmental review laws delayed a much-needed interstate project and greatly increased its cost.

The effort to widen a 12-mile stretch of I-70 in the Colorado city required a 13-year environmental review process, which resulted in a record-setting 16,000-page document. There were five lawsuits, nearly 150 required mitigation efforts, and $50 million added to the price tag.

At the center of this massive roadblock: the decades-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which “adversaries have weaponized” against progress, Girard said during the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) hearing.

“Needless delays and uncertainties can add significant costs to these important projects, at a time when funding is already constrained nationwide, said Girard, head of Plenary’s Civil Division. “These delays also keep the traveling public from seeing these needed improvements in a timely manner, further impacting travel times and quality of life.”

At the hearing, and a related Feb. 10 press event, Girard explained why ARTBA supports the Trump administration’s proposed NEPA modernization. The reforms will “greatly improve the NEPA process’ reliability and timeline by resulting in a more expeditious, while still thorough, review process, without impacting existing environmental standards,” Girard said.

In a related effort, ARTBA Vice President of Regulatory and Legal Issues Nick Goldstein participated in a Feb. 10 panel in Washington, D.C. to educate congressional staff about the need for NEPA modernization. Goldstein explained how the reforms would reduce transportation project delays while maintaining environmental standards. Goldstein was joined on the panel by representatives of organized labor, wind energy, and the agricultural sector.

ARTBA also will present the industry’s views on this issue at another CEQ hearing Feb. 25 in the Nation’s Capital.

The agency is taking public comments on NEPA modernization through March 10. The most effective comments “tell a story” of cost increases, delays and jobs lost because of NEPA abuses, such as Girard’s example.  It’s critical to make your voice heard to counter industry opponents. If you have questions, or need assistance in filing comments, please contact Nick Goldstein via the linked email, or by calling him at 202.683.1005.

PHOTO: Matt Girard of Plenary Group, at podium, during a Feb. 10 press event on NEPA reform.