Washington, D.C. — A new issue brief from the Center for American Progress uses the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) Blue Line project as a case study to demonstrate how environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act strengthens infrastructure projects and forestalls social, environmental, and even economic harms that might occur without such a review.
“Before federal environmental review statutes were implemented, infrastructure projects frequently went forward without consideration for the communities they would affect. Low-income communities and communities of color were often divided, bulldozed, or otherwise blighted, and wildlife habitats or waterways were damaged or destroyed. In some cases, remedying these situations has turned out to be more costly than the original project,” said Kevin DeGood, director of Infrastructure Policy at CAP. “The light rail extension in Charlotte is a good example of how environmental review strengthened the project itself and shows how environmental, civil rights, and historic preservation statutes guided the content of the review. Critically, environmental review provides an opportunity for local residents to be able to make their voices heard during the project planning and development process.”
CAP’s brief examines how Charlotte’s transit authority, CATS, was able to improve governance, increase transparency, and make infrastructure projects better by reducing environmental and community impacts through public participation and mitigations. CATS, as part of their environmental review, examined census data related to median income household and racial identification in the neighborhoods adjacent to the project corridor. With this information, the Federal Transit Administration was able to determine that the proposed extension complied with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Similarly, CATS determined through its study that no mitigations were required for either plant or animal species, in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. In total, the environmental review process allowed CATS to use its environmental impact statement to comply with all 13 applicable laws and executive orders, as well as with the relevant laws and procedures of the state of North Carolina.
Click here to read: “The Importance of NEPA Review for Infrastructure Projects: A Case Study of the CATS Blue Line Light Rail System” by Kevin DeGood
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