• 07/24/2020 4:02 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The House of Representatives has joined the Senate in passing the Great American Outdoors Act.

    The bill invests $1.9 billion annually for the next five years in deferred maintenance for lands managed by the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education. Performing this work will also provide jobs in nearly every state. The bill would also provide full and permanent funding of $900 million each year for LWCF. These monies come from offshore oil and gas revenues.

    From the Washington Post:

    Both parties are aiming to use the bill's passage to burnish their reputations and bolster their political fortunes.

    Speaking in front of the Capitol on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised freshmen Democrats for leading the effort to pass the bill.

    “The bill honors our responsibility to be good stewards of our natural heritage,” she said while surrounded by about a half-dozen Democratic lawmakers.

    In particular she praised Rep. Joe Cunningham (D), a former ocean engineer who is in a tough reelection race in a coastal South Carolina district that President Trump won by 13 points. He was the lead House sponsor of the bill.

    “He brought his scientific know-how, his devotion to preserving the planet, to the Congress and made this legislation possible,” Pelosi said.

    On the other side of the country, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser, toured Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado to trumpet the bill and visit some of the infrastructure in need of repair with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a Colorado native.

    The bill is expected to be signed by President Trump. Read the full Washington Post article here.

  • 07/23/2020 2:55 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Advisory Council for Historic Preservation (ACHP) has extended the period in which emergency procedures for Section 106 can be used until September 30, 2020. This authorization applies to all federal agencies. From the ACHP:

    On April 3, the ACHP authorized an extension to May 29 for all federal agencies to use the emergency procedures to implement COVID-19-related emergency undertakings. Before that initial extension expired, it was further extended to July 31, 2020. These procedures expedite the Section 106 review process for any federal agency that proposes to carry out, license, approve, or fund undertakings that respond to a disaster or emergency declared by the President, a tribal government, or the governor of a state, or which respond to other immediate threats to life or property. Considering the likelihood such declarations will remain in place into the foreseeable near future, the ACHP yesterday extended the use of these provisions until September 30 to allow for the ongoing needs of federal agency response.

    Please note the section 800.12 emergency procedures can only be used for undertakings that will be implemented in response to a disaster or emergency or that respond to other immediate threats to life or property. Examples of such undertakings for COVID-19 response include but are not limited to new construction or adaptation of existing buildings for testing, treatment, or quarantining; creation of COVID-19 temporary facilities; and development of infrastructure specifically built to serve COVID-19 facilities and services. The expedited procedures in section 800.12 do not apply to non-emergency response or recovery undertakings. It is also important to note that the tolling (pausing) of Section 106 reviews by a State or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Indian tribe, or Native Hawaiian organization does not apply to consultation under these emergency procedures.

  • 07/23/2020 12:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. This information is sourced from the Coalition for American Heritage, news articles, and more. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    • President Trump announced the NEPA regulatory rollback on Wednesday, July 15. The final rule closely resembles the proposed rule, and you can see ACRA's initial statement on the finalized regulations here. The Coalition for American Heritage, of which ACRA is a founding member, is working on a more robust analysis of the new rule and putting together a call to action for members to express their concerns to Congress. If the regulations are not challenged in court, they will go into effect in mid-September after 60 days following publication. Please be sure to let us know if you see any impacts of this rule on your projects.
      • Organizations are exploring different ways to challenge the new regulations: 
        • Congress could reverse the NEPA rule through the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which is an oversight tool that Congress can use to overturn rules issued by federal agencies. The CRA requires agencies to report on their rulemaking activities to Congress and provides Congress with a special set of procedures under which to consider legislation to overturn those rules. The House and Senate Parliamentarians are the sole definitive arbiters of the CRA parliamentary mechanism, including time periods involved. This is a possibility only if Democrats sweep the White House and take control of both chambers of Congress. 
        • Congress can also modify the regulations through Congressional action. 
        • Other avenues are through litigation that stipulates the regulations violate the intent and purpose of NEPA. Also, since the published version of the regulations did not directly address comments on the draft, the litigation could potentially focus on violations of the Administrative Procedures Act.
      • Joe Biden used the announcement of the NEPA rollback to issue his own environmental plan and sharpen the contrast between the two candidates.
    • Both the House and Senate are in session this week. It is expected to be a busy week of votes, but the timing of a funeral for Rep. John Lewis could disrupt the schedule. The House plans to vote on the Great American Outdoors Act. However, several Republicans are pushing back because the revenues from offshore oil leases are lower than in past years; these revenues would be used to offset costs of the Act. Beginning on Thursday, the House will take up a minibus that includes the FY 2021 Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture and Military- Construction-Veterans bill. This minibus will be separate from bills addressing the virus and unemployment. UPDATE: The House passed the Great American Outdoors Act on Thursday afternoon. The bill will make permanent $900 million per year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and direct up to $9.5 billion over five years to the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Fund to help address huge backlogs in maintenance needs.

    • The Democrats on the Appropriations Committee have used their bills as vehicles to remove Confederate monuments and rename military bases. The Secretary of Defense issued a new policy that effectively bans the Confederate flag from all military bases.

    • The recent Supreme Court ruling that nearly half of eastern Oklahoma is tribal land will have major impacts on pipeline construction. Oklahoma is the nation’s 4th-largest oil producing state. About ¼ of the state’s recent oil and gas wells and roughly 60% of its refinery capacity now lie within the territory of 5 tribes, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. Additionally, pipelines leading to Cushing, OK, a terminal for the Keystone XL, go across the redrawn reservation borders. This has likely been the most far-reaching Court decision affecting tribes since the Cobell decision in 1999 addressing government mismanagement of individual Indian money accounts. If you are interested in learning more about these issues and the Supreme Court case, see the podcast This Land. The ruling will force the state and the tribes to negotiate several issues, including who will be responsible for environmental permitting.

    • President Trump appears to be using his Executive Order on monuments to authorize intelligence surveillance of protesters. For information on a Department of Homeland Security memo authorizing intelligence collection, click here.

    • Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House minority leader, rolled out a bill titled the "Protect America’s Statues Act of 2020" with Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Sam Graves (R-MO). The bill would prevent state and local governments that do not protect monuments from receiving federal grants.

  • 07/20/2020 4:40 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    If you missed last week's webinar on resolving emerging technology for heritage management, it is now available on demand for you to watch on your own schedule!

    When the Section 106 process results in adverse effects to historic properties, federal agencies often use mitigation measures to preserve data for the public benefit. As new means of information visualization are embraced by the general public, new opportunities to comply with the goals set out by Section 106 can be explored to ensure that the historic data being preserved under the mitigation is not only accessible to a wider audience but conveys the information in an engaging and innovative way.

    In this presentation, our expert presenters provide an overview of emerging technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), digital reconstructions, interactive interfaces and downloadable apps. Participants also learn about existing and emerging visualization platforms, along with practical examples, guidelines for adopting solutions that maximize longevity of the digital assets, and best practices for recruiting service providers, organizing RFPs and RFQs.

    As with the live session, this webinar is available to ACRA members at a discounted price. Members can get the discount code to access the presentation for free here.

    Watch Emerging Technology for Heritage
    Management & Section 106 Compliance Now

  • 07/17/2020 1:16 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    This post was authored by Richard Grubb, Vice President of Richard Grubb & Associates.

    We at Richard Grubb and Associates are dedicated to helping clients understand the value of CRM and we take every opportunity to do so. In the regulatory world in which we work, it’s often difficult for clients, particularly engineers and developers, to think beyond how much a study is going to cost and how long it will take to complete.

    This article I wrote in the New Jersey Builders Association Newsletter Dimensions suggests ways for clients to determine what cultural resource issues to expect later on during the permitting process. By being forewarned it will allow for the possibility of project redesign or slight adjustments to plans to minimize impacts to cultural resources before the permitting process gets underway. Read the full article below (you can also view a PDF version of the article here), and leave your thoughts in the comments below!

  • 07/16/2020 10:43 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Trump Administration has released the final version of its new regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

    ACRA is concerned about many of the changes to NEPA implementation, including:

    1. Fewer actions will be subject to NEPA review;
    2. The ability of the public to raise concerns about effects is reduced;
    3. The types of effects to be considered by the agencies are limited;
    4. Arbitrary timelines and page limits may reduce consideration of cultural resource impacts; and
    5. The regulations introduce confusing new terms that will invite litigation and delay projects, the opposite of what the Administration says it intends with these new rules.

    Given the decades of precedent and case history surrounding NEPA, America’s bedrock environmental law, ACRA maintains that any changes should be made with care, consideration, and robust stakeholder involvement. Instead, the Trump Administration rushed through the comment period during a global pandemic and failed to include meaningful government-to-government consultation with tribes.

    At each step in the process, ACRA and its partners at the Coalition for American Heritage raised concerns about the rule’s anticipated effects on consideration of historic resources. ACRA members submitted letters to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) using their expertise to outlinehow the proposed rule could harm historic preservation efforts. Both ACRA and the Coalition also submitted comment letters to CEQ in which we highlighted the potential dangers to cultural resources. To read a ACRA's comments, click here. In addition, the Coalition met with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House to provide additional details of our concerns. We are therefore disappointed that the Administration failed to meaningfully address our concerns.

    It is likely that this rule will be challenged in court, and Congress and/or a future Administration could take steps to reverse these changes. ACRA will continue monitoring the impacts of the new rule as it goes into effect. We invite our members to contact us with examples of the impacts they see these new regulations having on the projects on which they work.

  • 07/15/2020 5:01 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The Trump Administration has unveiled its finalized changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The finalized regulations can be accessed here.

    From the New York Times:

    President Trump on Wednesday unilaterally weakened one of the nation’s bedrock conservation laws, the National Environmental Policy Act, limiting public review of federal infrastructure projects to speed up the permitting of freeways, power plants and pipelines.

    In doing so, the Trump administration claimed it will save hundreds of millions of dollars over almost a decade by significantly reducing the amount of time allowed to complete reviews of major infrastructure projects.

    Revising the 50-year-old law through regulatory reinterpretation is one of the biggest — and most audacious — deregulatory actions of the Trump administration, which to date has moved to roll back 100 rules protecting clean air and water, and others that aim to reduce the threat of human-caused climate change.

    Because the action is coming so late in Mr. Trump’s term, it also elevates the stakes in the November elections. Under federal regulatory law, a Democratic president and Congress could eradicate the NEPA rollback with simple majority votes on Capitol Hill and the president’s signature.

    Republican lawmakers, the oil and gas industry, construction companies, home builders and other businesses have long said the federal permitting process takes too long, and accused environmentalists of using the law to tie up projects they oppose.

    ACRA is reviewing the changes and will provide more information for members shortly. Read the full New York Times article here, and stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for more information.

  • 07/15/2020 12:41 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Thank you to all who voted in the 2020 ACRA election! This year's election was extremely close, and we eagerly anticipate welcoming new members to the Board of Directors in the fall. We greatly appreciate the service of our departing board members and look forward to their continued leadership on essential committee projects.

    Congratulations to the winning candidates below! Their terms will start in the end of September at the fall board meeting. Be sure to add your congratulations in the comments below!


    Officers are elected for two-year terms, with those below serving from 2020-2022.

    • Vice-President - Government Relations: Shawn Patch (New South Associates)

    At-Large Board Positions

    At-Large Board Members are elected for three-year terms, with those below serving from 2020-2023.

    • Daron Duke (Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc.)
    • David Harder (Plateau Archaeological Investigations, LLC)
    • Erin Hudson (Environmental Solutions & Innovations, Inc )

  • 07/13/2020 2:20 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Preservation Virginia is partnering with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for two webinars that may be of interest to ACRA members:

    Making Historic Preservation More Inclusive
    Friday, July 17
    10 a.m

    Telling the full story of our history is vital. Audrey P. Davis, director of the Alexandria Black History Museum, and representatives from this year's listing of Virginia's Most Endangered Historic Places will share their perspectives and how their work is expanding narratives that have often been suppressed, excluded and misrepresented in the mainstream telling of history.

    The Role of Historic Preservation in Recovering from the COVID-19 Pandemic
    Friday, July 24
    10 a.m.

    Join PlaceEconomics, the Department of Historic Resources, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the National Trust Community Investment Corporation, the Norfolk Preservation Collective and Preservation Virginia in a discussion on adapting preservation during the pandemic and the role of historic preservation in economic recovery.

    You can register for both of these webinars here, and don't forget about ACRA's own 2020 webinar series - our next session on emerging technology for heritage management and Section 106 compliance is this Thursday, July 16 at 2:00 pm EDT!

  • 07/10/2020 10:00 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. This information is sourced from the Coalition for American Heritage, news articles, and more. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    • Duke Energy and Dominion Energy announced that they are cancelling the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Despite their victory in the Supreme Court over a permit from the U.S. Forest Service, they cited the likely risk and expense of future litigation as the cause for their decision. They also focused on the recent court decision to suspend the Army Corps’s use of Nationwide Permit 12. Following that announcement, Dominion announced it is selling its Natural Gas assets to Berkshire Hathaway.
      • The Supreme Court subsequently lifted the stay on the use of Nationwide Permit 12 all but Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines.
      • A district court ruled that the Dakota Access pipeline must shut down by August 5 while the court-ordered environmental review takes place. The review is likely to end into 2021. If this decision is upheld on appeal, it will mark the first time that a major, in-service oil pipeline is forced to shutter because of environmental concerns.
    • The Department of Homeland Security deployed a special task force charged with protecting federal monuments over the July 4 weekend. On Twitter the President reminded everyone of his executive order threatening prison sentences of more than 10 years for anyone convicted of harming a federal statue. In similar news, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced a bill requiring a minimum 1-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of defacing or destroying a veteran’s memorial.
    • President Trump used his July 4 celebration at Mount Rushmore to announce that he was signing an executive order creating a National Garden of American Heroes. The order proposes statues of 28 Americans, among them John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Davy Crockett, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, Harriet Tubman and George Washington. It also mentions Christopher Columbus and Junipero Serra as possible candidates for inclusion. No Native Americans or Latinos are included in the list of possibilities. All statues would have to be realistic and lifelike – nothing abstract or modern. The order also establishes an inter-agency task force whose membership would include the Chairs of the NEA, NEH and the ACHP.
    • Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and 35 of her fellow Democrats introduced legislation that would require removal, within one year of the law’s enactment, of any Confederate names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia from any Defense Department asset. An exception would be made for grave markers. President Trump has taken a hard line, resisting calls to do away with vestiges of past celebrations of Confederates and has threatened to veto the defense bill over the issue.
    • The House passed its $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. President Trump threatened to veto it because it doesn’t eliminate or reduce environmental reviews. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) submitted an amendment to the bill regarding the NHPA, but it was not included in the final package of amendments. The text of her amendment said:

      “Expresses a Sense of the Congress affirming the requirement that the Department of Transportation ensure that when funding an infrastructure project follow the National Historic Preservation Act, which requires steps to be taken to preserve and protect historic places that may be near construction or infrastructure improvement projects.”

    • William Perry Pendley was formally nominated by President Trump to head the Bureau of Land Management, a position he has held in an acting capacity since summer 2019.
    • John Frey, a Connecticut State Representative, has been formally nominated to be a member of the ACHP. We previously reported this appointment on the ACRAsphere in late June.
    • Following decades of legal battles over potential oil and gas development in the Badger- Two Medicine, the Blackfeet Nation has publicly released a legislative proposal to designate the 130,000-acre wildland as a Cultural Heritage Area.
    • John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park, which memorializes Tulsa's bleakest days – the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot - of and one of its most distinguished sons, has been added to the National Park Service's African American Civil Rights Network.
    • Congressman Joe Neguse, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Congressman Ed Perlmutter and Congressman Jason Crow (all from Colorado) called on the House Committee on Appropriations to include $515 million in future Coronavirus relief funding for State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs), Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs), and small museums. This effort was spearheaded by a lobbying group in Colorado.
    • House Democratic appropriators are proposing the federal government spend $13.83 billion to fund activities within the Department of the Interior for fiscal 2021 — $304 million above what was allocated in fiscal 2020 and $1.8 billion beyond the administration's initial request. They are suggesting the National Park Service remove "all physical Confederate commemorative works, such as statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques."
    • The draft House Interior appropriations bill provides the following for the Historic Preservation Fund:
      • $136,425,000 for HPF (an $18 million increase over FY2020)

      • $7.5 for restoring sites of national, state, local significance

      • $10 million HBCUs

      • $22.25 for grants honoring Civil Rights movement

      • $1 million for underrepresented communities grants

      • $25 million for Save America's Treasures

      • $7.4 million for the ACHP

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