Steps to Modernize and Reinvigorate NEPA

Enacted in 1970, NEPA is a cornerstone of our Nation's efforts to protect the environment and a fundamental tool to harmonize our economic and environmental aspirations. It recognizes that many Federal activities affect the environment and mandates that Federal agencies consider the environmental impacts of their proposed actions before acting. NEPA emphasizes public involvement in government actions affecting the environment by requiring that the benefits and the risks associated with proposed actions be assessed and publicly disclosed.

On August 22, 2014, the White House Council on Environmental Quality released draft NEPA guidance on when and how Federal agencies can effectively use NEPA programmatic reviews. Guidance on programmatic NEPA reviews has been requested by the agencies and attention on programmatic NEPA reviews has increased as agencies are increasingly undertaking broad landscape scale analyses for proposals that affect the resources they manage. The guidance addresses how agencies can prepare such reviews to ensure the reviews are prepared in an efficient and timely manner and provide information that is useful for advancing decision-making. 

Previously on February 18, 2010, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) proposed several steps to modernize and reinvigorate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), in conjunction with its 40th Anniversary. These measures are designed to assist Federal agencies to meet the goals of NEPA, enhance the quality of public involvement in governmental decisions relating to the environment, increase transparency and ease implementation.

In addition, CEQ has worked with the Office of Management and Budget and the Federal agencies on several sector specific initiatives.  The Administration formed rapid response teams to help expedite the review process for transportation, and transmission projects and improve the overall quality and timeliness of federal permitting and environmental reviews. These rapid response teams help to meet the goals of President Obama's memorandum on "Speeding Infrastructure Development through More Efficient and Effective Permitting and Environmental Review".

Additional information on the various NEPA initiatives are provided below: 

NEPA Pilot Projects Program
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As part of the effort to improve NEPA implementation, CEQ issued its March 17, 2011 solicitation to members of the public and Federal agencies, inviting them to nominate projects employing innovative approaches to completing environmental reviews more efficiently and effectively. CEQ is working with the relevant Federal agencies to implement and track the five selected pilots in an effort to evaluate their outcomes, and highlight and promote lessons learned on time- and cost-saving approaches to replicate across the government.

NEPA Handbooks
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In March 2013 CEQ and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation released a handbook that encourages more efficient environmental reviews under NEPA by integrating the NEPA process with the review processes of the National Historic Preservation Act Section 106.  This handbook provides advice to Federal agencies, applicants, project sponsors, and consultants on how to take advantage of existing regulatory provisions to align the NEPA process and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Section 106 review process..  In February 2014 CEQ and the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) have jointly prepared the handbook “NEPA and CEQA: Integrating Federal and State Environmental Reviews.” The handbook provides practitioners with an overview of NEPA and CEQA as well as suggestions for developing a single environmental review process that can meet the requirements of both statutes. These handbooks will facilitate quicker, more informed Federal decision-making on projects that impact American communities and help agencies improve efficiency, maximize staff resources, and reduce costs.

Enhanced Public Tools for Reporting on NEPA Activities
Access the updated www.nepa.gov website.
CEQ continues to upgrade this site to include the status of reviews of agency NEPA guidance, Recovery Act NEPA reporting, and real-time NEPA review status. These upgrades are designed to improve public participation and the quality of Federal agency administration of NEPA.

Examples of Recent NEPA Guidance

The complete compilation of guidances is available here

Final CEQ Guidance on NEPA Efficiencies
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Final CEQ Guidance Clarifying Use of Categorical Exclusions
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Final CEQ Guidance for Mitigation and Monitoring
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Draft CEQ Guidance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change Impacts
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