WASHINGTON — The Association of American Railroads has expressed support for a plan by the White House to dramatically change the National Environmental Policy Act and streamline the environmental review process for infrastructure projects.
NEPA requires the federal government to review how major infrastructure projects would impact the environment, but federal officials say it is “unnecessarily complex and time-consuming.” Currently, it can take an average of four and a half years to produce an environmental impact statement, according to the White House. The proposed changes would dramatically reduce that timeline.
Environmental groups say they will fight the changes, noting that it would prevent the federal government from studying the impact various projects might have on pollution and climate change. But industry, including the rail sector, says it’s a much-needed change.
“Updating and streamlining the permitting process is long overdue, and the freight rail industry applauds the administration for taking this important step forward,” says AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “Railroads agree that more can and must be done to expedite routine maintenance and other critical construction projects without compromising important environmental protections. We look forward to continued conversations with our partners in government to advance the NEPA modernization process.”