White House Kicks Off NEPA Reform

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”) has issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPRM”) providing an exceptional opportunity for stakeholders to participate in improving the federal National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) review process.  The ANPRM, entitled “Update to the Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act” (“NEPA”), was issued on June 20, 2018 pursuant to Executive Order 13807, “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects” (“E.O. 13807”).  E.O. 13807 directs CEQ to suggest actions to modernize the federal environmental review process and was one of several steps taken by the Trump Administration aimed at streamlining an often burdensome and lengthy regulatory review process.  Comments are due by July 20, 2018. 

NEPA requires every federal agency to conduct an environmental review when undertaking any major federal action.  The range of federal actions that require NEPA reviews is broad and includes any activity requiring a federal permit or funding.  The current process has been widely criticized for being burdensome, overly-bureaucratic, and costly.  In 2016, the Department of Energy released a report showing that the average NEPA process takes approximately 70 months, or 6 years, and costs approximately $4.5 million dollars.  While there have been multiple Congressional efforts to streamline NEPA, the process remains a tremendous cost for U.S. businesses and often significantly delays the construction of important infrastructure projects. 

Through this ANPRM, CEQ is requesting comments on a wide-range of NEPA implementation issues, including:

  1. Whether the federal environmental review process should be revised to make it more efficient, timely, and better coordinated among agencies;
  2. Whether certain definitions should be added or updated;
  3. How provisions relating to public involvement can be revised to be more inclusive and efficient;
  4. What provisions may be obsolete or in need of updating;
  5. How unnecessary burdens and delays in the process can be avoided; and
  6. Potential revisions to mitigation regulations.

This ANPRM provides stakeholders with a noteworthy opportunity to provide comprehensive comments on this far-reaching environmental regulation.  Interested parties should consider providing feedback and suggestions to CEQ on how the NEPA process can be improved.   

Clark Hill attorneys are experienced in working with clients to develop effective legal strategies and advocacy approaches to address regulatory and deregulatory initiatives. For more information, please contact Karen C. Bennett at kbennett@clarkhill.com | (202) 572-8676;  Kenneth von Schaumburg at kvonschaumburg@clarkhill.com | (202) 772-0904; Christopher B. Clare at cclare@clarkhill.com | (202) 572-8671; Amanda L. Tharpe at atharpe@clarkhill.com | (202) 772-0913; or another member of Clark Hill's Environment, Energy & Natural Resources practice group.