Administration Loosening Environmental Regulations Moves Large Projects Ahead

A wind turbine (left) under construction, with two completed wind turbines in the background

When the White House issued a final rule designed to modernize and accelerate environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and similar reviews related to other policies related to building projects, its stated goal was allowing infrastructure projects to be built in a timely, efficient and affordable manner.  Actions were then undertaken to meet the requirements of this rule.

NEPA requires federal agencies to consideration the environmental impacts of projects before they are approved, and gives the public and interest groups the ability to comment on the evaluations.

The final rule, issued this past summer, updated federal NEPA regulations, included the codification of certain court decisions to clarify NEPA’s regulations and applications, as well as expansion of public involvement in NEPA reviews through technology use. However, the updated rule has also come into criticism for removing the requirement to consider a project’s cumulative environmental effects, including their contribution to climate change.

Now, a newly released document provides details into approximately 60 of the projects that have been expedited by the rule, including 13 related to renewable energy, energy transmission and energy storage.

The document is a detailed letter sent by Katharine Sinclair MacGregor, deputy secretary of the interior, to Larry Kudlow, assistant to the president for economic policy and director of the National Economic Council.

In the letter, MacGregor noted, in part, “Since implementation of these [NEPA] policies, the average time and page length required to complete an environmental impact statement has been reduced from more than 5 years and 850 pages to 1.5 years and 145 pages. This reduction has ensured that projects stay on track, decision makers have a more useful product, and taxpayers pay less to complete NEPA reviews.”

Eight of the 13 energy projects relate to renewable energy: three solar projects in Nevada and one in California; three wind projects¾one each in California, Massachusetts and New Mexico; and one geothermal project in California.

Three relate to energy transmission: one each in Iowa, South Carolina and Virginia. Two relate to energy storage: one in Oregon and one in Nevada.

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