Earlier this year, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking recommending extensive changes to the governing regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA is a broad national policy aimed at preventing or eliminating damage to the environment. Under this policy, whenever “major federal actions” – including projects that receive federal funding – will significantly affect the environment, federal agencies must incorporate certain environmental impacts into their decision-making processes and allow public participation.
The proposed changes aim to narrow the scope of what constitutes a “major federal action” by creating exclusions. The proposed changes would also limit the breadth of what a federal agency is required to consider when undertaking NEPA review. For example, the CEQ’s proposal would require less expansive alternatives analysis and consideration of mitigation measures. Finally, many of the proposed changes are aimed at facilitating faster NEPA reviews.
CEQ accepted public comments on the proposed changes until March 10, 2020, and conducted public hearings in Denver on February 11, 2020 and Washington, D.C. on February 25, 2020. CEQ received over one million comments on its proposed rule and is now in the process of reviewing and responding to the comments it received before the rule can be finalized.
Colette D. Honorable, Todd O. Maiden, Jennifer A. Smokelin and Randa M. Lewis have co-authored the article “Proposed NEPA Rulemaking Accelerates Environmental Reviews” for the latest edition of Pratt’s Energy Law Report from LexisNexis. Download a copy of the full article.