President Trump announced on July 15 the issuance of a final rule to significantly revise the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The changes in NEPA, first proposed by the President in January, would require that Environmental Impact Statements, such as the one that was required for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, be completed within two years, and that Environmental Assessments be completed in one year.
Among the most noteworthy changes in the NEPA revisions, which were published in the July 16 Federal Register, is the elimination of “cumulative” effects from being considered in the NEPA process and preventing a project’s effects that are “remote in time, geographically remote, or the product of a lengthy casual chain” from being considered. This change in essentially means that climate change could not be considered in the NEPA review of a proposed project. The final rule would also impose considerable burdens on members of the public and affected communities who seek to oppose a project.
The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) in a July 15 statement said the new rule “hobbled the nation’s bedrock environmental protection” and “illegally cut corners in a way that the courts have rejected time and time again. SELC indicated it is preparing to sue the Trump Administration over the NEPA changes on behalf of a client group.
The new rule is due to become effective September 14, 2020.