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On Sept. 29, ABC submitted comments with a coalition of industry stakeholders to the Council on Environmental Quality in response to a proposed rule regarding Phase 2 of revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act implementing regulations. The proposal would make wide-ranging changes that will add unnecessarily burdensome and costly provisions to the federal environmental review and permitting process.

The comments urged CEQ to withdraw the proposed rule, which would reverse critical streamlining provisions of the ABC-supported 2020 NEPA rule, including by doing the following:

  • Widening the scope of agency review of “context and intensity” of proposed actions
  • Removal of language specifying that NEPA does not mandate particular results
  • Expanding judicial review of NEPA reviews
  • Removing rules placing reasonable limitations on the public engagement process

The comments additionally oppose the proposal’s language adding new layers of complexity to the NEPA process, which will further delay often years-long environmental reviews. These provisions include new requirements for agencies to identify environmentally preferable alternatives, consider global impacts of federal actions and compel mitigation measures from project sponsors.

While technically implementing some of the much-needed, bipartisan NEPA reforms supported by ABC in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the comments outline how the proposed rule seeks to undermine and weaken the FRA’s reforms and therefore defies the intent of Congress to provide certainty regarding permitting of critical infrastructure projects.

The rule follows the Phase 1 final rule issued in April 2022, which began the process of undoing key aspects of the 2020 NEPA revisions.