Recent administrative directives concerning National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance will change the way federal agencies process environmental reviews. These include:
- Executive Order (EO) 13807, “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects.”States that “processing of environmental reviews and authorization decisions for new major infrastructure projects should be reduced to not more than an average of approximately 2 years.”
- Secretarial Order 3355, “Streamlining National Environmental Policy Act Reviews and Implementation of Executive Order 13807.”Sets page limits for environmental impact statements (EIS) (300 pages for complex projects, excluding appendices) and sets more ambitious goals for timelines (1 year for a Final EIS), for which a Department of the Interior bureau is the lead agency.
- Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ)initial list of actionsit will take to comply with EO 13807. Includes new guidance on establishing, applying, and revising Categorical Exclusions under NEPA; improving the process for preparing efficient and timely environmental reviews under NEPA; improving appropriate use of mitigation, monitoring, and mitigated Findings of No Significant Impact; and issuing additional guidance to agency heads as the CEQ may deem necessary to simplify and accelerate the NEPA process for infrastructure projects.
Although currently focused on infrastructure projects, similar directives may be issued that apply to other project types. The aim of these directives is to streamline the NEPA process to obtain more efficient and effective federal infrastructure decisions, avoiding time-consuming and costly delays. Agencies are currently developing direction and guidance to meet these new directives.
To comply with EO 13807 and NEPA and other environmental regulations, we anticipate that federal agencies may rely on “pre-NEPA” processes – prior to initiating the formal NEPA process – to:
- Develop preliminary purpose and need statements and project goals
• Conduct more detailed project alternatives analyses
• Identify environmental constraints
• Conduct data collection and preliminary analyses
Implementation of these new directives will take some time, and what they mean for projects will continue to evolve.
How do these processes differ from NEPA compliance in the past 10 years? What can be done now to ensure an expedited environmental review process for my time-sensitive project? ERO can guide you through these questions and assist in developing and executing a work plan. Please contact your ERO Project Manager for additional information about streamlining NEPA and pre-NEPA services. Click here for our staff contacts, or email ERO.