NEPA

More Unforced Errors in the 2023 NEPA Amendments

Bluntly speaking, the statute is a mess.

When the 2023 amendments to NEPA passed as part of the debt ceiling bill, I wrote a series of blog posts about the drafting errors. It turns out that I missed some, as I discovered when working on the new edition of my environmental law casebook.  They really aren’t all that subtle, and it’s hard …

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The Statutory EIS Process: A Primer

Last year, Congress tried to codify NEPA law. Here’s how the process is supposed to work.  

Because NEPA’s discussion of environmental impact statements (EIS) was very brief, the requirements and procedures were elaborated by courts and  guidance from a White House office. That changed in 2023, because  much of the subject is now covered explicitly by new statutory language.. Thus, NEPA is a bit less of a “common law” subject than …

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A Big Year on Legal Planet

Planet Earth evolving

Here are the 12 most popular topics in environmental law and climate policy on Legal Planet based on our most-read posts from 2023.

It’s an understatement to say that 2023 was a transformative year for the U.S. climate movement. We saw rapid implementation of landmark federal climate laws, a series of big actions on methane emissions, a deal on Colorado River water usage, and bigger-than-expected climate victories in Sacramento. EPA’s control of toxic chemicals was tested, the U.S. …

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Accelerating Transmission Approval

A proposed program will help streamline transmission permits.  

A week ago, the Biden Administration proposed a new program called CITAP to accelerate permitting from transmission lines. If properly implemented, the program will do much more for permitting reform than the recent NEPA amendments in the debt ceiling law.  The reason? CITAP implements a statute that is much more ambitious in its overhaul of …

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Finetuning the New NEPA Rules

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 …

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Revamping the NEPA Process

The White House ‘s proposed regulations will streamline the process while still protecting the environment.

Early on Friday, the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released the proposed Phase II revisions of its NEPA regulations.  The CEQ proposal deftly threads the needle,  streamlining the NEPA process while  protecting the environment and disadvantaged communities. The proposal is a clear improvement over both earlier versions: 1978 rules issued by the Carter …

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Individuals Making a Difference

Two stories of the unknown environmental advocates behind major Supreme Court decisions.

My students often wonder whether they can actually make a difference. I like to tell them the story of Joe Mendelsohn.  Mendelsohn, who worked at a tiny, obscure non-profit, decided that EPA needed to address climate change. His efforts, recounted in a book by Richard Lazarus, led to the Supreme Court’s blockbuster opinion in Massachusetts …

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The NEPA Amendments in Nine Blog Posts

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 …

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NEPA 2.0 and Transmission Projects

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 …

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Having the Fox Guard the Henhouse?

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 …

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