EnergyFederalIssuesTrump Administration Introduces New Rule Reducing Duration of Environmental Studies for Infrastructure Projects

The new rule is meant to expedite the environmental impact study process for infrastructure projects without undermining the requirements set by NEPA.
January 10, 2020
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A new rule shortening the duration of environmental impact studies, among other objectives, was published to the Federal Register in an announcement by the Trump administration on Friday.

In 2017, President Trump issued an executive order directing the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to revisit the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Passed in 1970, NEPA requires “federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions.”

NEPA governs the approval process of permits, dictates federal land management, and regulates the construction of highways and other publicly owned facilities.

A central facet of NEPA includes the Environment Impact Study (EIS), a process by which proposed projects are assessed for their respective effects on the environmental region in which they’ll reside. The precluding action to an EIS is an Environmental Assessment (EA) — an initial evaluation of the proposed project’s impact on its environment.

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EIS’s can take multiple years to be fully completed, which causes a significant delay to project timelines. One public comment about the EIS process asserted that “even large complex energy projects would require only about 12 months for the completion of the entire EIS process.”

CEQ found that, on average, impact studies take 4.5 years to complete.

The CEQ’s proposed time limit is one year for assessments and two years for impact studies.

The findings of an EIS can go one of two ways: either no significant impact is determined or a significant impact is found and a statement of that projected impact is prepared.

From there, a public comment period of 45 days is begun.

About the new rule, the Trump administration stated, “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.”

The Council on Environmental Quality is overseeing the approval and implementation of the rule. Public comments on the rule must be submitted by March 10, 2020. The general public can submit comments a few ways, including through their online portal.

Two public hearings will be held on the issue: the first on February 11 in Denver and the second on February 25 in Washington, D.C.

CEQ Chairman, Mary B. Neumayr, stated, “The proposed rule would ensure Federal agencies consider the significant environmental impacts of proposed projects and activities, while accelerating the process so that timely decisions are made on major infrastructure and other projects affecting Americans’ everyday lives.”

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.