CEQ Issues Proposed Rule to Modernize its NEPA Regulations
Friday, July 17, 2020
First proposal in over 40 years to significantly update the regulations
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to update its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations for public comment.
Signed into law in 1970, NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of proposed major federal actions as part of their decision-making. The NEPA process can impact a wide variety of projects affecting Americans’ everyday lives from the construction of roads, bridges, highways, and airports to water infrastructure, conventional and renewable energy projects, and land, forest, and fishery management activities. CEQ’s NEPA regulations date back to 1978 and have not been comprehensively updated in over 40 years.
Over time, implementation of NEPA has become increasingly complex and time consuming for Federal agencies, project applicants, and Americans seeking permits or approvals from the federal government. CEQ has found that the average length of an environmental impact statement is over 600 pages, and that the average time for Federal agencies to complete such NEPA reviews is four and a half years.
CEQ’s proposed rule would modernize and clarify the CEQ regulations to facilitate more efficient, effective, and timely NEPA reviews by simplifying and clarifying regulatory requirements, incorporating key elements of the One Federal Decision policy, codifying certain case law and CEQ guidance, updating the regulations to reflect current technologies and agency practices, eliminating obsolete provisions, and improving the format and readability of the regulations.
The proposed rule seeks to reduce unnecessary paperwork and delays, and to promote better decision-making consistent with NEPA’s statutory requirements.
For a fact sheet on the proposed rule, click here.
For the text of the proposed rule, click here.