NEPA Process: Public Comments Under Review
September 22 2018
Changes could be coming to the NEPA process. On June 20, 2018, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) requested public comments on "potential revisions to update the regulations and ensure a more efficient, timely, and effective NEPA process” (https://ceq.doe.gov/laws-regulations/regulations.html) with a notice in the Federal Register (83 FR 28591). In response, the NEPA community, including our NEPA specialists here at 3e, is discussing the most effective ways to streamline a process that can take months to years and whether CEQ will overhaul its guidance in response to comments.
For many larger projects across nearly all Federal agencies, NEPA documents have become long and cumbersome to wade through, especially for the general public that is looking for a basic and simple understanding of the potential effects of a Federal action. 3e has noticed that nearly all our Federal clients are sincerely focused on streamlining the process to reduce NEPA timelines and the length of NEPA documents.
One suggestion is for agencies to adopt a broader range of actions that qualify as Categorical Exclusions, which are by nature smaller documents than Environmental Assessments or Environmental Impact Statements. The comment period closed on August 30, 2018 and CEQ is currently reviewing public comments. 3e will be following this topic and help our clients understand and implement any changes in CEQ’s NEPA guidance.