Environmental Matters > Historic Preservation
Section 106 Delegation
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) (16 U.S.C. 470(f)), imposes a responsibility on federal agencies to "take into account the effect of" their licensing decisions on properties included in, or eligible for inclusion in, the National Register of Historic Places, and, prior to approval of an undertaking, to afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) a reasonable opportunity to comment. ACHP has promulgated implementing regulations for NHPA at Section 800 of Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 800).
The Surface Transportation Board (STB), through its Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA), formerly the Section of Environmental Analysis (SEA), undertakes the Section 106 process in railroad licensing proceedings. These include proceedings in which a railroad seeks STB authorization to abandon a rail line or acquire or construct a new rail line. The STB's environmental regulations also include provisions on historic preservation. They may be found at Section 1105.8 of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR 1105.8). The regulations detail the types of actions for which railroad applicants must prepare and submit historic reports (documents providing the STB and relevant State Historic Preservation Officer(s) with sufficient information to conduct the Section 106 consultation process required by NHPA). The regulations also set forth the types of actions that generally do not affect historic sites and structures, and therefore do not require a historic report.
When Section 106 applies, OEA must consult with the relevant State Historic Preservation Officer(s), as well as other interested parties, to identify historic properties, determine if they will be adversely affected, and, if so, consider appropriate mitigation. In rail line abandonment proceedings, the STB may impose a temporary condition prohibiting railroads from taking steps to alter sites or attendant structures until the Section 106 process is completed. This has the effect of maintaining the status quo pending completion of the Section 106 process. The STB processes more than 100 cases per year requiring an historic review; many involve railroad properties at least 50 years old, thus potentially qualifying them as historic.
When an historic property is involved, the STB's power to protect it is very limited. First, the STB's conditioning power is restricted to the particular property involved in the action under the agency's review. Second, the STB's conditioning power extends only to the railroad applicant's property; it does not extend to property not owned by the applicant. Third, property owned by the applicant but not used or useful for the applicant's railroad operations is generally not subject to the STB's conditioning power. In short, the STB's conditioning power applies only to the railroad applicant(s); the agency cannot impose or enforce preservation conditions on properties or parties that are not subject to agency jurisdiction.
For more information about NHPA and the Section 106 process, please see the Web site of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation at www.achp.gov. For information on the Board's historic review process, please see Implementation of Environmental Laws, 7 I.C.C.2d 807, 826 (1991).
As a Federal agency, the Surface Transportation Board (Board) is required to take into consideration the impact of its licensing decisions on historic properties under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and other Federal environmental laws. The Board’s Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) is responsible for carrying out the Board’s responsibilities under NEPA, NHPA and related laws and has developed this guidance to assist applicants seeking the Board’s authority for rail line constructions, acquisitions, abandonments and mergers, to better understand the Board’s historic review process. The guidance is not intended to impose regulatory requirements, but rather to clarify the historic preservation review requirements of the Board.
The historic preservation guidance is presented in the six sections shown below:
● Section I - Questions and Answers (Q&As) on Historic Preservation Review
● Section II - Step-by Step Guide on Completing the Board’s Historic Report Requirement
● Section III - Historic Preservation Legislation
● Section IV - Useful Resources and Links
● Section V - Glossary of Terms
● Section VI - OEA Staff Contact Information
Section 106 Delegation