WHAT IS “COORDINATION” IN FEDERAL LAW?
“COORDINATION” REQUIRES FEDERAL AGENCIES TO REACH CONSISTENCY WITH LOCAL GOVERNMENTS’ PLANS, POLICIES AND ACTIONS
- The process of Coordination requires that all levels of government must “coordinate” with the lowest levels (local levels) of government prior to enforcing policies, plans, actions, and regulations to ensure that there will be no negative economic impact on the local community as a result of enforcement.
- It is the federal law of the land that federal regulatory agencies must coordinate their policies, plans, actions, and regulations with local governments. The law requires them to work on an equal footing with the local government for purposes of resolving conflicts in policy or action in order to benefit the “human environment” which is identified as being the primary concern of the national government. The “human environment” is defined as including economic, historic, cultural, social, health, and ecologic interests of man.
- In the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Congress defined “coordination” to mean that the federal agency must use all practicable means to reach consistency of plan, policy and action with local governments. The Supreme Court has ruled that when Congress defines a term of common usage like coordination, then whenever it uses that word in a like statute, it means the same unless it re-defines the term. So in all cases where the human benefits of economic, social, cultural, historic, and ecological considerations are impacted by regulations, the agencies must work with the local government until they reach a stage of consistency. The federal agency has the burden of finding a position consistent with that of the local government. Federal District Judges have set aside federal plans and actions which were shown to be inconsistent with a policy or plan of the local government affected by the action. The President of the United States ordered coordination by all agencies working with rural America in Executive Order # 13575.
- In late 1960-early 1970s, Congress began passing environmental laws that heavily impacted the social and economic environment of human beings. The very first one passed into law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to cooperate with local governments by using “all practicable means to…coordinate…plans, functions, programs and resources.” The Act created the Council on Environmental Quality to oversee implementation and enforcement of the Act. The Council ordered all agencies to accomplish the Congressional policy as early in a relationship with a local government as possible in order to avoid or resolve inconsistencies between the federal and local governments. 40 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1500, ex. 1501.2
- What is the rationale for Congress to have put this burden on the agencies? From our earliest days as a nation, local governments have been the most important level of government to the citizens. Government services needed by citizens are most effectively delivered at the local community level. To prevent local governments and communities from being overwhelmed by an enormous national government, Congress has mandated in law that all federal agencies “coordinate” their policies, plans and actions with local governments – such as the Village of Hartland.
- The Food and Drug Administration, in its regulation 21 Code of Federal Regulations 25.1, acknowledges that NEPA’s coordination requirement is consistent with its statutory duties and responsibilities, thus it must follow the NEPA requirements