President Trump announced today that the Administration is issuing a final rule expediting the permitting process for infrastructure projects by streamlining the environmental reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The final rule will update NEPA regulations to impose time limits of two years for projects to receive an environmental impact statement (EIS) and one year for an environmental assessment (EA). The announcement is welcome news for taxpayers as NEPA regulations have contributed to a backlog of critical infrastructure projects delayed by bureaucratic red tape.
Prior to today’s announcement, the average time for federal agencies to conduct NEPA reviews had ballooned to four and half years, contrary to guidance issued by Council on Environmental Quality under the Reagan Administration limiting the permitting process to one. Several projects have been delayed much longer, with federal highway projects waiting over seven years on average to receive an EIS.
Reaction from Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform:
“Under the Obama administration, NEPA regulations were used as a political weapon to delay infrastructure projects with endless paperwork and litigation. It should never take 7 years for the government to issue a permit for building a bridge. Yet this is the average time it currently takes the Federal Highway Administration to complete an Environmental Impact Statement. Today’s announcement from CEQ is an important step towards fixing a broken permitting process. This final rule rightly recognizes that infrastructure projects should receive their environmental review in a timely manner and based solely on the merits of the project.” – Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform.
Key provisions of proposed rulemaking:
Establishing time limits for completion of environmental impact statements (EISs) to two years and completion of environmental assessments (EAs) to one year.
Allows applicants to assume a greater role in preparing EISs under agency supervision.
Requires a single record of decision (ROD) for EISs involving multiple agencies.
Provides a new direction on whether NEPA applies to a project.
Provides a clarifying definition that a proposed project’s effects must be “reasonably foreseeable” and have a reasonably close relationship to the proposed action that is casual.