(27 February 2003 - Washington, D.C.) Environmental Defense today raised concerns that environmental and public health impacts were not effectively addressed in the fast track review of six new transportation projects, which the Bush administration announced today.
"Though some of the projects announced today provide models for good environmental stewardship, many threaten substantial environmental harm," said Michael Replogle, transportation director of Environmental Defense. "Fast-tracking is only appropriate in limited circumstances - where project reviews show that environmental and community concerns have been fully taken into account. The fast-tracking of controversial and potentially harmful projects weakens environmental laws, cuts out public input and prevents consideration of less harmful alternatives."
Today, the administration announced a list of six fast-track projects, some of which, such as U.S. 93 in Montana, have been extensively reviewed and are recognized as having made sound efforts to address environmental concerns. Others, however, are highly controversial and likely to have severely negative environmental impact. For example, the Inter County Connector (ICC) in Maryland is likely to spur significant sprawl, traffic congestion and air pollution. The President's September 2002 Executive Order on project reviews will be discredited if the ICC and similar projects are fast-tracked without full evaluation of alternatives and efforts to minimize adverse environmental impacts. A complete list of the projects announced today is available on the Department of Transportation website at www.dot.gov/affairs/dot01503.htm.
"Using fast-track authority to shield bad projects from public review, risks adverse impacts on the environment, environmental justice, public health or local communities," said Replogle. "There is a better way to speed project delivery - by taking the environment and community concerns into account up front. Environmental Defense would look forward to working with the Bush administration to make sure that fast-track review fully complies with environmental law."
In September of last year, President Bush issued an Executive Order on Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Reviews. Contrary to a pledge made by the Bush administration in September 2002, environmental organizations were not given an opportunity to comment on the selection of the first set of fast-track projects, which were announced on October 31, 2002. Information on the first set of seven projects, as well as additional information on transportation as it relates to public health and the environment, is available on the Environmental Defense web site at www.environmentaldefense.org/go/transportation.