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On July 31, the Council on Environmental Quality released a proposed rule to implement Phase 2 of revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act implementing regulations. The proposal makes wide-ranging changes to the rules for federal agencies conducting the environmental review and permitting process.

Disappointingly, the proposed rule reverses 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

On the other hand, the proposed rule would enact much-needed reforms supported by ABC in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, including:

  • Consolidation of the review process for multiagency projects under a single “lead agency”
  • Establishment of a two-year time limit on “environmental impact statements” and a one-year limit on “environmental assessments,” with the caveat that agencies may extend the deadline in consultation with stakeholders
  • Expansion of the usage of “categorical exclusions” to exempt projects that an agency has determined do not normally impact the environment

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

ABC staff are continuing to review the proposal and plan to submit comments by the deadline of Sept. 29.