January 13, 2020

Trump Administration Proposes Changes To Environmental Review Process For Federal Projects

The White House last week announced a plan to reform the federal environmental permitting process for federal infrastructure projects. If the proposed changes go into effect, they would be the first major alterations to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) rules is more than four decades.

According to a fact sheet from the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, the proposed changes would:

  • Modernize, simplify and accelerate the NEPA process by establishing presumptive time limits of two years for completion of environmental impact statements (EISs) and one year for completion of environmental assessments and by promoting the use of modern technologies for information sharing and public outreach.
  • Clarify terms, application and scope of NEPA review by requiring earlier solicitation of input from the public to ensure informed decision-making by federal agencies and by requiring agencies to summarize alternatives, analyses, and information submitted by commenters.
  • Enhance coordination with states, tribes, and localities.
  • Reduce unnecessary burdens, delays, and more.

According to The Wall Street Journal, reviews can now take up to 10 years.

At a White House event, the president said, “We want to build new roads, bridges, tunnels, highways bigger, better, faster … These endless delays waste money, keep projects from breaking ground and deny jobs to our nation’s incredible workers.”

According to The Washington Examiner, these changes not only would affect transportation-related projects, they also could make it easier to get new clean energy projects up and running. The public has until March 10, 2020 to comment on the proposed rules, and can do so by clicking here.

The process for making these reforms still faces hurdles. As The Wall Street Journal explained, “The plan, which is subject to public hearings before it can be approved, faces likely court challenges …” According to The Hill, the change also faces bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill—even though Congress would not need to approve the changes.