The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is proposing to update its regulations for implementing the procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The current Administration is presenting this as means to modernize and clarify regulations to facilitate more efficient, effective, and timely NEPA reviews by Federal agencies in connection with proposals for agency action. I've listed below, verbatim, what CEQ is stating these proposed changes would accomplish.
Specifically CEQ is proposing to "...revise and modernize its NEPA regulations to facilitate more efficient, effective, and timely NEPA reviews by Federal agencies."
CEQ states that the "...proposed updates and clarifications seek to advance the stated objectives of the current regulations, as adopted in 1978, “[t]o reduce paperwork, to reduce delays, and at the same time to produce better decisions [that] further the national policy to protect and enhance the quality of the human environment.” ."
CEQ is proposing various revisions to "..align the regulations with the text of the NEPA statute, including revisions to reflect the procedural nature of section 102(2) of NEPA."
CEQ says the proposed revisions would "...ensure that environmental documents prepared pursuant to NEPA are concise and serve their purpose of informing decision makers regarding the significant potential environmental effects of proposed major Federal actions and the public of the environmental issues in the pending decision-making process."
CEQ also says the proposes revisions would "...ensure that the regulations reflect changes in technology, increase public participation in the process, and facilitate the use of existing studies, analyses and environmental documents prepared by States, Tribes, and local governments."
CEQ states that the proposed revisions to its regulations are consistent with the One Federal Decision policy (“OFD policy”) established by E.O. 13807 for multi-agency review and related permitting and other authorization decisions. E.O. 13807 specifically instructed CEQ to take steps to ensure optimal interagency coordination, including through a concurrent, synchronized, timely, and efficient process for environmental reviews and authorization decisions.
As you can imagine, opponents to the proposed rule making say otherwise. Many see this as a role back to environmental protections that have been in effect since 1969, others are seeing this as a direct attack on climate change legislation. Regardless, it is very likely that big changes are coming. I was interviewed by the local Phoenix NPR Station on January 10th about the proposed rule making. Unfortunately I had not had a chance to review it and we are still in the process of looking at this in detail. I'll be publishing an updated blog that focuses on our evaluation of the impact to NEPA. In the interim, the CEQ invites comments on the proposed revisions.and they are to be submitted by March 10, 2020.