CEQ’s Proposal to Update its NEPA Implementing Regulations:

The public comment period closed on March 10, 2020.

CEQ held two public hearings on the following dates:

Further Background:

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.

CEQ has not comprehensively updated its NEPA implementing regulations since 1978, more than four decades ago. Over time, the NEPA process has become increasingly complex and time consuming. CEQ has found that, on average, it takes Federal agencies 4 and half years to complete environmental impact statements (EISs) under NEPA, and for some projects it takes much longer. Additionally, these statements can also be lengthy and exceed, on average, 600 pages.

In 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.

Timeline of CEQ’s NEPA Review:

CEQ Reports:

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.

Recent Guidance:

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.

For further information on NEPA, visit NEPA.gov.