The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), signed into law on January 1, 1970, requires Federal agencies to consider the environmental effects of proposed major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. NEPA’s requirements apply to a broad range of actions affecting the daily lives of Americans across the country. From the construction of roads, bridges, highways, transmission lines, conventional and renewable energy projects, broadband deployment, and water infrastructure to management of activities on Federal lands, such as grazing, forest management, and wildfire protection to environmental restoration and other projects.
Under President Trump’s leadership, CEQ comprehensively updated its NEPA implementing regulations for the first time in over 40 years. On July 15, 2020, CEQ announced its final rule modernizing its regulations to streamline the development of infrastructure projects and promote better decision making by the Federal government.
CEQ’s Final Rule Modernizing its NEPA Implementing Regulations:
- Final Rule: Update to the Regulations Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act
Timeline of CEQ’s NEPA Review:
- August 15, 2017 – President Trump issued Executive Order (EO) 13807, which directed CEQ to review its existing NEPA regulations and modernize and accelerate the Federal environmental review and decision-making process.
- September 14, 2017 – CEQ issued an Initial List of Actions to implement EO 13807.
- June 20, 2018 – CEQ issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) soliciting feedback on potential revisions to update and clarify its NEPA regulations.
- July 21, 2018 – CEQ extended the ANPRM comment period.
- August 20, 2018 – The comment period concluded. CEQ received over 12,500 comments in response to the ANPRM.
- October 11, 2019 – CEQ submitted a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for interagency review.
- January 9, 2020 – CEQ announced a NPRM to modernize and clarify the regulations to facilitate a more efficient, effective, and timely NEPA review process.
- NPRM: Update to the Regulations Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act
- Redline of Proposed Revisions
- Fact Sheet
- Press Release
- Chairman Neumayr’s op-ed in the Washington Examiner
- What They Are Saying: Support for CEQ’s Proposal to Modernize its NEPA Regulations
- PowerPoint Presentation on Proposed Updates to NEPA Regulations
- Chairman Neumayr’s op-ed in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
- CEQ held two public hearings on the following dates:
- March 10, 2020 – The NPRM comment period concluded. CEQ received over 1.1 million comments in response to the NPRM.
- June 1, 2020 – CEQ submitted its Final Rule updating its NEPA regulations to OIRA for interagency review.
- July 15, 2020 – CEQ announced the Final Rule updating its NEPA regulations
On June 12, 2020, CEQ issued an updated report on the length of time Federal agencies spent to complete EISs under NEPA. CEQ found that over the past decade, the average time for agencies to complete an EIS was 4.5 years. CEQ’s current guidance suggests that this process, even for complex projects, should not take more than one year.
On June 12, 2020, CEQ also issued an updated report on the average length, by page, of EISs. CEQ found that the average length of an EIS was over 600 pages. CEQ’s current regulations suggest EISs should normally be less than 150 pages and less than 300 pages for proposals of unusual scope or complexity.
CEQ has also developed and published a comprehensive list of all Federal agencies’ categorical exclusions (CEs) under NEPA. CEs are actions that a Federal agency has determined do not have a significant impact on the environment. CEs are not exemptions from NEPA, but rather they are a form of NEPA review.
On September 14, 2020, CEQ issued updated guidance for agencies regarding emergencies and NEPA.
On June 21, 2019, CEQ proposed guidance for agencies regarding the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when evaluating proposed major Federal actions in accordance with NEPA.
- Draft NEPA Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Fact Sheet
- July 24, 2019 – CEQ extended the comment period
For further information on NEPA, visit NEPA.gov.