CEQ Issues Final NEPA Rule Revision
The White House Council on Environmental Quality on July 15 announced its final rule modifying the regulations that guide federal agencies in the environmental review of projects requiring federal approvals. The National Environmental Protection Act requires that federal agencies assess the potential environmental impacts of major federal actions. This includes federally funded construction projects, plans to manage and develop federal lands, and federal approvals of non-federal activities requiring licenses or permits. Agencies undertake either an environmental impact statement, an environmental assessment for less significant impacts, or a categorical exclusion for actions with no significant impact. The process for obtaining federal permits under the NEPA process has become lengthier since the NEPA regulations were first promulgated in 1978, now averaging 4.5 years.
The amended rule limits to two years for EISs and one year for EAs the amount of time agencies may take to review. It also sets page limits for these documents, clarifies what constitutes a major federal action, requires better coordination among federal agencies, facilitates the use of assessments prepared by state, local and tribal governments, and allows project applicants and their contractors a greater role in preparing EISs with oversight by the lead agency.