2023 NEPA amendments
CEQ’s proposal is good, but it could be made even better.
In Monday’s post, I praised the CEQ’s proposed new NEPA regulations. They should streamline the process without compromising protection of the environment or environmental justice. I do have some suggestions for improvement, however, which are detailed below. Beyond my specific suggestions, I also hope that CEQ would view the new NEPA regulations as the beginning …CONTINUE READING
Surveying the legal problems of the biggest NEPA changes in the past fifty years.
On June 5, President Biden signed the debt ceiling bill, which provides the first significant rewrite of NEPA since it was passed over fifty years ago. In a series of blog posts, I’ve explored some of the legal issues raised by the amendments. My goal has been highlighting problem areas rather than providing anything like …CONTINUE READING
Will the new NEPA provisions speed approval of urgently needed projects?
In terms of the energy transition, the most important question about the recent NEPA amendments is whether they streamline permitting for transmission projects. The answer is complicated. We can divide transmission projects into two groups. The first group consists of transmission projects where federal involvement is limited to specific segments, such as stream crossings requiring …CONTINUE READING
Delegating Environmental Reviews to Project Sponsors
One of the most important provisions, of the new NEPA law, § 107(f), allows the lead agency to delegate preparation of environmental reviews to project applicants. There are unsettled questions about when this provision applies and how it interfaces with other parts of NEPA. There are clear conflicts of interest in assigning this role to …CONTINUE READING
Sec. 107 is the key permitting reform applying to major projects. Will it work?
The 2023 Amendments to NEPA tweak current regulations in various ways in the name of permitting reform. Those changes make it easier to exempt smaller projects or cover them with programmatic impacts statements. The key issue, however, is going to be the effectiveness of new section 107, the main provision aimed at large-scale projects like …CONTINUE READING
The enactment of NEPA 2.0 presents a golden opportunity for the agency.
In the recent debt ceiling law, Congress extensively revamped NEPA, the law governing environmental impact statements. An obscure White House agency, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), will have the first opportunity to shape the interpretation of the new language. Much of the language in the new law is poorly drafted or vague, making CEQ’s …CONTINUE READING
In an effort to streamline NEPA, Congress may only have made parts of it incomprehensible.
Shortly after Biden signed the new NEPA rewrite as part of the debt ceiling law, I wrote a blog post about a major drafting glitch at the heart of the new provisions. Today, I’d like to follow up with more examples. This poor drafting could really hobble implementation of the new provisions. We live in …CONTINUE READING
The new NEPA amendments weren’t intended to speed up the process. But they’ll also spark new litigation.
The Interior Department has a rule that environmental review isn’t required for a prescribed fire of 4,500 acres, subject to restrictions that aren’t relevant here. Prior law authorized this kind of regulation but also required the agency to consider whether a particular fire involved exceptional circumstances, such as being next to a wilderness area. After …CONTINUE READING
The Debt Ceiling Law Rewrote NEPA. Here’s a map to the new statute.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was passed over fifty years. It created a new tool for environmental protection, the environmental impact statements, It also created the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which issued guidelines of implementing NEPA in 1978. Lawyers will need to retool quickly because of recent changes. Here’s a roadmap …CONTINUE READING
The Debt Ceiling Bill was written under intense time pressure. It shows!
Someone asked me how the new bill defines what kinds of projects have enough federal involvement to require an environmental assessment. I thought I knew the answer. But when I looked carefully at the bill’s language, I realized that it actually can’t mean what I thought it did. In fact, it’s so badly written that …CONTINUE READING