Today's environmental challenges are greater than ever before. Our Nation is working to grow economically and compete internationally while at the same time protecting and enhancing the environment. These goals are not mutually exclusive. Indeed a high-quality standard of living for all Americans in the future means we must protect the essential elements of our existence--our air, water, soil, and biological resources--and preserve our neighborhoods and community values. President Clinton believes that "America can set an example by achieving economic growth that can continue through the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren because it respects the resources that make that growth possible." This is the concept of sustainable development, which unites protection of the natural and human environment with economic well-being.
In response to Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review (NPR), the Department of Transportation (DOT) intends to become a model transportation agency for protecting and enhancingthe environment. Secretary Federico Peña has called for harmonizing transportation policy and environmental concerns as a major objective within the DOT. DOT agencies must become environmental leaders, clearly demonstrating sensitivity to the natural environment and to neighborhoods and communities in everything we do.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) first issued an Environmental Policy Statement (EPS) in 1990 to affirm the agency's commitment to environmental protection and enhancement. The principles embraced by the FHWA in the 1990 EPS remain valid:
We have accomplished much under these principles. We have developed regional interagency agreements to merge the wetland permit and project development processes and emphasized shared decisionmaking. The FHWA's environmental training program has been reinstituted and environmental research has increased tenfold.
Yet there is still work to be done. The 1993 conformity regulations issued to implement the Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) of 1990 challenge all of us in the transportation and environmental sectors. We also must act on the Secretary's goal of "putting people first" to ensure that our policies and investments embrace the concerns of neighborhoods, communities, and society as a whole. And we must act on our obligation to foster environmental justice by ensuring that our transportation system does not unfairly affect any one segment of our society and that it equitably distributes benefits as well. To meet these goals, the FHWA must achieve an unprecedented level of collaboration and consensus-building with our partners.
The FHWA can be proud of its efforts in working toward a highway system that fits harmoniously within our natural environment and our neighborhoods and communities. Now we must strengthen our commitment to help shape an environmentally sustainable, intermodal surface transportation system.
<Signed> Rodney E. Slater