On Nov. 22, ABC filed comments with a coalition stakeholders to the Council on Environmental Quality in response to its notice of proposed rulemaking revising the implementing regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act. ABC filed these comments in support of a streamlined approach to the permitting process under NEPA to reduce delays hindering critical projects, resulting in better infrastructure, a stronger economy and continued environmental stewardship.
Under former President Trump, CEQ issued an ABC-supported final rule in 2020 that modernized the federal environmental review process and provided a coordinated, predictable and transparent method to streamline permitting under NEPA. However, this proposed rule would restore regulatory provisions that were in effect before the 2020 rulemaking. Specifically, the proposal makes the following three changes to the 2020 NEPA rules:
- Restore the requirement that federal agencies evaluate all the relevant environmental impacts of the decisions they are making;
- Restore the full authority of agencies to work with communities to develop and analyze alternative approaches that could minimize environmental and public health costs; and
- Establish CEQ’s NEPA regulations as a floor, rather than a ceiling, for the environmental review standards that federal agencies should meet.
In its comments, the coalition urged CEQ to retain several provisions of the 2020 final rule, which provided needed clarity and maintained consistency with the original 1978 NEPA rulemaking and decades of case law. Additionally, the coalition expressed concerns that the proposed revisions would hinder NEPA’s goal of more informed agency decisions.
This proposed rule is the first step of a two-step process to revise the 2020 NEPA regulations. While phase one will propose a narrow set of changes to the NEPA regulations, phase two will propose broader changes to the final rulemaking.
ABC has supported legislative and regulatory efforts to modernize and create a more efficient NEPA review process, including support for H.R. 8333, the Building U.S. Infrastructure Through Limited Delays & Efficient Reviews (BUILDER) Act, during the 116th Congress. In March 2021, ABC joined dozens of members of the Unlock American Investment Coalition in calling on Congress to improve and modernize the federal permitting process under NEPA.
To learn more, see the coalition’s fact sheet.