Final NEPA Rule Offers Measured Reforms to Benefit Stakeholders

In the decades since the original regulation was adopted, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process has become a thicket of red tape and litigation risk that often serves to block or endlessly delay needed infrastructure projects. In a new paper for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), senior fellow Mario Loyola argues changes made to NEPA by the Trump Administration are measured and should benefit virtually all stakeholders in the process. Loyola worked as associate director of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) at the White House from 2017 until 2019.

The reforms strengthen the key mission of NEPA, which is to make sure that federal officials have studied the potential environmental consequences of proposed federal actions, such as permits for infrastructure projects. These Trump administration reforms build on reforms of the permits process begun under the Obama administration, and respond to the bipartisan consensus that the NEPA process imposes unnecessary burdens, delays, and uncertainties for important infrastructure projects, from roads and bridges to the renewable energy projects that Democrats have made a key priority.  The final rule contains important process reforms aimed at reducing those unnecessary burdens, delays, and uncertainties.

Important reforms include:

  • Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) would have to be completed in no more than two years and would have to be no longer than 300 pages.
  • Environmental Assessments (EAs) would have to be completed in no more than one year and would have to be no longer than 75 pages.
  • Enhanced coordination with states, tribes, and localities.
  • More inclusive process for stakeholder engagement.
  • Streamlining the definition of what constitutes a “major federal action significantly affecting” the environment.

“Delays and uncertainties do not benefit the environment; they only hurt working families,” said report author Loyola. “All those who care about NEPA can agree that the right policy is to maximize the environmental protections of NEPA while minimizing those burdens, delays, and uncertainties that are not environmentally justifiable. The new NEPA regulation contains measured improvements aimed at benefitting a wide range of stakeholders in the NEPA process.”

Read the full paper here.