White House Invites Public Comment on Possible Changes to NEPA Procedures
By: Eric Stern
On June 20, 2018, the Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”) published a (the “Notice”) that it is considering updates to the regulations governing environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). The Notice does not propose any specific changes. Rather, it broadly solicits comments from the public on “potential revisions to update the regulations and ensure a more efficient, timely, and effective NEPA process.” As the Notice observes, any amendment adopted by CEQ would be the first substantive revision of the NEPA regulations since 1986.
In addition to general comments, the Notice invites comment on twenty open-ended questions regarding the implementation of NEPA review. Many of the questions seek proposals for ways to streamline and shorten the NEPA review process by enhancing interagency coordination and focusing the review. The Notice also asks whether the definitions for key NEPA terms should be revised, including “major federal action,” “effects,” “cumulative action,” and “significantly,” and whether regulations applicable to Categorical Exclusions, Environmental Assessments, and Environmental Impact Statements should be amended.
The Notice follows President Trump’s August 15, 2017 , which contained measures aimed at streamlining NEPA review and directed CEQ to “enhance and modernize the Federal environmental review and authorization process.” A subsequent April 9, 2018, between the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and several other agencies aims to increase coordination between agencies on environmental review.
CEQ will accept public comment until July 20, 2018, at the Federal eRulemaking portal.