July 5, 2018

White House Kicks Off NEPA Reform

From: JD Supra

Karen BennettChristopher ClareAmanda TharpeKenneth von Schaumburg

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”) has issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPRM”) providing an exceptional opportunity for stakeholders to participate in improving the federal National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) review process.  The ANPRM, entitled “Update to the Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act” (“NEPA”), was issued on June 20, 2018 pursuant to Executive Order 13807, “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects” (“E.O. 13807”).  E.O. 13807 directs CEQ to suggest actions to modernize the federal environmental review process and was one of several steps taken by the Trump Administration aimed at streamlining an often burdensome and lengthy regulatory review process.  Comments are due by July 20, 2018.

NEPA requires every federal agency to conduct an environmental review when undertaking any major federal action.  The range of federal actions that require NEPA reviews is broad and includes any activity requiring a federal permit or funding.  The current process has been widely criticized for being burdensome, overly-bureaucratic, and costly.  In 2016, the Department of Energy released a report showing that the average NEPA process takes approximately 70 months, or 6 years, and costs approximately $4.5 million dollars.  While there have been multiple Congressional efforts to streamline NEPA, the process remains a tremendous cost for U.S. businesses and often significantly delays the construction of important infrastructure projects.

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