July 28, 2023
Today, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released its notice on implementing new regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA is one of the United States’ foundational environmental laws, passed unanimously back in 1970. It is the statute that requires that major federal actions be preceded by environmental impact statements that assess environmental effects, explore less environmentally damaging alternatives, and consider mitigation measures to ensure that federally permitted or licensed projects have no more adverse environmental impact than necessary.
Today’s notice is Phase Two of the Biden administration’s long process to update the rules governing NEPA reviews. The proposed rules accomplish four important objectives: They continue the process of repealing the dangerous regulations adopted by the Trump administration in 2020 to gut the NEPA process; They implement the NEPA changes included in the recent debt ceiling bill; They codify important procedural changes that have made today’s environmental review process more efficient and productive; And they emphasize the need for federal agencies to seriously address climate and environmental justice issues.
“Today’s action is a positive step forward,” said ELPC Managing Attorney Scott Strand. “These new rules incorporate many of the best practices for doing environmental reviews efficiently that have developed over the past ten years. At the same time, these rules continue the task of undoing the harmful Trump rules, and that administration’s attempt to render the environmental review process meaningless. The new rules should also force the agencies to step up their game – to genuinely take climate and environmental justice issues seriously before making major decisions.”
The CEQ’s proposed rules will now go into the comment phase, with a set of public hearings scheduled over the next couple of months. They are expected to be finalized by the end of the year.