Regulatory Overview

Regulatory jurisdiction over environmental resources is exerted through federal laws and regulations, state laws and regulations, and through Executive Orders. Descriptions of these follow.

Federal Law

Federal laws, once enacted, are listed as United States Code, or USC. Federal laws can be browsed at the US Congress website United States Code.

In order for federal law to be enforced, regulations are issued that detail, for example, the processes for applying for and granting permits.

Federal regulations are listed in the “Code of Federal Regulations”, or CFR. There are 50 CFR Titles, several of which are relevant to environmental law. Within each Title are Chapters and Volumes which divide the regulations into sections for each regulatory entity that governs it. For example, Title 50, Wildlife and Fisheries, is divided into 11 Volumes and 6 Chapters (some of which have subchapters), each of which has their own section of regulations. Regulations are listed with the title, the source (CFR), and the section of the title. For example, the definitions used in the regulations for the Wild Bird Conservation Act are found at:

Title 50--Wildlife and Fisheries

Volume 1

Chapter I--United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior

Subchapter B--Taking, Possession, Transportation, Sale, Purchase, Barter, Exportation, and Importation of Wildlife and Plants

Part 15--Wild Bird Conservation Act

Subpart A—Introduction and General Provisions

§ 15.3 Definitions

This regulation is cited as 50 CFR §15.3, and does not include the Volume, Chapter, Subchapter, or Subpart. The § symbol is a “Section Sign” and simply denotes a section of a title (or sections, plural, when written as §§).

Federal regulations can be browsed at Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.

Executive Orders

An executive order is an order or directive issued by the President, or in some cases, by a Governor. Executive orders are legally binding, and have the same weight as laws passed by Congress. Federal regulations sometimes cite Executive Orders as authorization for enforcing a regulation.

Presidential Executive Orders can be browsed in the Federal Register.

State Law

Vermont state laws are encoded in the Vermont States Annotated (VSA). Vermont state laws are enforced through the Code of Vermont Rules. In Vermont, Rules are commonly known by their names, such as “Vermont Wetland Rules”.

Vermont statutes can be browsed at Vermont Statutes. There are 33 Statute Titles.

Vermont State Rules can be browsed at Code of Vermont Rules.

Memoranda of Agreement and Memoranda of Understanding

VTrans has several formalized agreements with various state and federal agencies that are intended to streamline permitting and other processes that VTrans deals with on a regular basis. Memoranda of Agreement lay out the background for what the agreement is about and the stipulations that the agreement includes, and are signed and dated by the appropriate personnel. Memoranda of Agreement that involve VTrans can be found in this Environmental Procedures Manual with the associated permit programs or project development stages.

MOUs, MOAs, PAs

Programmatic Agreements

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) describes programmatic agreements (PA) as documents that spell out the terms of a formal, legally binding agreement between a state transportation agency and other state and/or federal agencies. PAs establish processes for consultation, review, and compliance with one or more federal laws, most often with those federal laws concerning historic preservation.

There are two basic kinds of programmatic agreements:

  • A PA that describes the actions that will be taken by the parties in order to meet their environmental compliance responsibilities for a specific transportation project, called here a project–specific PA.

  • A PA that establishes a process through which the parties will meet their compliance responsibilities for an agency program, a category of projects, or a particular type of resource, called here a procedural PA.

In the context of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, a PA differs from a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in that MOAs are used to resolve known and definable adverse effects on historic properties that result from a federal undertaking. PAs are used when the effects of an undertaking are not fully known. PAs are also a tool for implementing approaches that do not follow the normal Section 106 process. This is done to streamline and enhance historic preservation and project delivery efforts. In Vermont, for example, FHWA, the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation and VTrans have signed a PA delegating VTrans staff the authority to serve as State Historic Preservation Officers. MOUs, MOAs, and PAs relevant to environmental processes at VTrans are provided in this manual.

Programmatic agreements for natural resources are usually procedural as opposed to project-specific. These PAs often involve the delegation of environmental review functions from the FHWA to a state DOT, or from a federal or state natural resource agency to a state DOT. These delegation PAs can address, for example, Categorical Exclusion reviews and wetland permitting. VTrans has signed a PA with FHWA to allow VTrans to review and approve Categorical Exclusions that meet certain criteria.

Policies and Procedures

Policies and procedures are agency-specific written guidelines used to guide certain activities. They may or may not be tied to specific laws or regulations but are not typically legally binding regulatory documents unless cited in the related regulation. Examples of VTrans policies pertaining to environmental procedures are:

The VTrans Noise Analysis and Abatement Policy is required by federal law and specifies how transportation noise impacts should be analyzed and evaluated. It identifies impact thresholds, and provides criteria for consideration of abatement measures.

VTrans has many more formal and informal policies and procedures, some of which may be found in their searchable online policy manual.