On October 7, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released proposed changes to the implementing regulations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (P.L. 91-190). Executive Order 13990 called for federal agencies to review numerous rules adopted under the previous administration, including the 2020 changes to NEPA implementation. CEQ announced a phased approach to amending NEPA, and within this first phase, the agency proposes changes to reverse key changes made within the 2020 rule.
CEQ will host two public meetings on the Phase 1 proposed rule at the times below. Public comments are due on November 22.
The previous administration made changes to NEPA’s implementing regulations that ultimately eased the permitting process under the law. This proposed rule would require that federal agencies now consider climate change and other cumulative effects that projects may have. Additionally, the proposed rule would reestablish CEQ regulations as the “floor instead of the ceiling,” meaning that federal agencies implementing NEPA would have the authority to create additional guidance that meets or exceeds CEQ procedures. NEPA implementation rules have been historically cumbersome due to significant administrative burdens and delays in difficulties coordinating across different federal agencies. Critical infrastructure projects also faced significant delays due to certain aspects of the analysis being performed consecutively instead of concurrently.
As co-regulators and intergovernmental partners with federal agencies, counties are directly interested in any proposed changes to the NEPA process. Counties support revising NEPA implementing regulations to require federal agencies to regularly provide meaningful opportunities for states and counties to be involved in the NEPA process for planning and projects that may affect constituents’ economy, environment and culture. Counties also support changes to NEPA that would expedite the delivery of critical infrastructure projects while maintaining common-sense environmental stewardship and urge the CEQ to work closely with state and local governments as revisions to NEPA are implemented.