Proposed changes in regulations governing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) were announced October 6 by the Biden Administration. NEPA is the basic law governing the manner in which environmental reviews are conducted of proposed projects, such as pipelines. The announced revisions would reverse changes made to NEPA regulations in 2020 by former President Trump (for earlier ABRA Update article on Trump changes, click here.)
The proposed NEPA rule changes are particularly relevant to ABRA’s Conservation Hub program, which provides tools for enhancing analysis and transparency in the NEPA review process conducted by regulatory agencies for projects and proposals that impact the environmental integrity of the Central Appalachian Highlands.
The October 6 announcement from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which is part of the Office of the President, outlined a proposed rule to NEPA regulations that would make the following three changes:
- Restore the requirement that federal agencies evaluate all the relevant environmental impacts of the decisions they are making. The proposed change would make clear that agencies must consider direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of a proposed decision.
- Restore the full authority of agencies to work with communities to develop and analyze alternative approaches that could minimize environmental and public health costs. The 2020 rule of the Trump Administration limited federal agencies’ ability to develop and consider alternative designs or approaches that do not fully align with the stated goals of a project’s sponsor (e.g., a private company).
- Establish CEQ’s NEPA regulations as a floor, rather than a ceiling for the environmental review standards that federal agencies should be meeting.
CEQ is inviting public comment on these proposed revisions in two public meetings on the proposed rule will be held online on October 19, 2021 from 1-4 pm, EDT and October 21 pm 5-8 pm EDT.
For a copy of the proposed NEPA rule changes and information on how to comment – in writing or as a participant in one of the 2 virtual hearings – click here. For a copy of the CEQ statement on the proposed rule changes, click here.
For an analysis by E&E News of the how the proposed changes could affect energy projects, click here.