On July 15, the White House issued a final rule designed to modernize and accelerate environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), with the stated goal of allowing infrastructure projects to be “built in a timely, efficient, and affordable manner.”
The final rule modernizes federal NEPA regulations, including the codification of certain court decisions to clarify NEPA’s application, while also expanding public involvement in NEPA reviews through the use of modern technology.
The rule also establishes time limits of two years for the completion of environmental impact statements, when required, and one year for completion of environmental assessments.
“Together, these common sense reforms will slash unnecessary government bureaucracy and accelerate important infrastructure projects all across the Nation,” said the White House in its press release.
The press release also made note of some problems in the past that are designed to be eliminated with the new final rule, such as “environmental impact statements average over 650 pages, and it takes Federal agencies on average four and a half years to conduct required reviews,” and “NEPA reviews are also frequently challenged in court, making it very challenging for businesses and communities to plan, finance, and build projects in the United States.”
A number of business groups and trade unions quickly came out in support of the new final rule. One of these was the Associated General Contractors of America, whose CEO, Stephen E. Sanherr, said, “This updated review process will make it easier to rebuild aging infrastructure, attract private investment, support efforts to reinvigorate our economy and continue to provide strict protections for the environment. Given the broad, bipartisan support for improving infrastructure, these common-sense reforms should be widely embraced and supported.”
“At a time when both political parties understand the best way to support the economy is by investing in infrastructure, this new rule will help ensure that civil works funding and public-private partnerships help created needed jobs and deliver results, instead of being mired in red tape and squandered on endless legal squabbles,” Sandherr said.