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CEQ releases final rule that seeks to modernize NEPA regulations

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on July 15 released a final rule that seeks to modernize the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations.

CEQ’s final rule calls for simplifying and clarifying the requirements and incorporating key elements of President Trump’s, “One Federal Decision” policy, established under Executive Order 13807, Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects.

The final rule codifies U.S. Supreme Court and other case law, updates the regulations to reflect current technologies and agency practices, eliminates obsolete provisions, and improves the format and readability of the regulations.

Also, the rule will expand public participation and the involvement of states, tribal and local governments in the NEPA process.

NEPA, signed into law in 1970, is a procedural statute that requires federal agencies to assess the potential environmental impacts of proposed major Federal actions. CEQ issued regulations for federal agencies to implement NEPA in 1978. CEQ has not comprehensively updated these regulations in over 40 years and has made only one limited substantive amendment in 1986.

CEQ said that key elements of the final rule include:

  • Improving management of the NEPA process;
  • Codifying relevant case law and providing new efficiencies;
  • Expanding public involvement and improves coordination with states, tribes, and localities; and
  • Ensuring meaningful and effective environmental reviews

NEPA applies to a broad range of Federal agency actions, including federally-funded construction projects, plans to manage and develop federal lands, and federal authorizations of non-federal activities such as licenses and permits.

NEPA encompasses a variety of projects and activities, including construction of roads, bridges, highways, public transit, and airports, conventional and renewable energy production and distribution, electricity transmission, water infrastructure, and broadband deployment, as well as management of public lands, forests, and waters.

Such management activities include leases and authorizations for energy production, mining, grazing, and other activities; management of national parks, forests, and fisheries; and environmental restoration projects.  

The final rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The final rule is available here.