On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) held the first of two days of public hearings on its proposed overhaul of regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in Denver, Colorado. CEQ’s proposal represents the first significant revision to NEPA’s implementing regulations since their 1979 enactment.
At the Denver hearing, proponents of the amendments asserted the importance of “modernizing” and “streamlining” federal environmental review processes, and they expressed strong support for CEQ’s proposal to establish presumptive limits on the duration of reviews (two years for Environmental Impact Statements of “EISs”; one year for Environmental Assessments or “EAs”) and page limits for review documents (300 pages for EISs; 150 for EAs). Other proposed streamlining devices received considerably less attention.
Meanwhile, opponents of CEQ’s proposed amendments expressed concern that the revised regulations would restrict public involvement in agency decision-making and eliminate consideration of indirect and cumulative impacts such as climate change. Many speakers also took issue with CEQ’s decision to hold just two days of public hearings — at which attendance was limited by an online reservation system — and restrict the written comment period to 60 days.
CEQ is scheduled to hold its second and final day of public hearings on February 25, 2020 in Washington, D.C. The current deadline for the public to submit written comments on the proposal is March 10, 2020; public comments may be viewed and/or submitted at www.regulations.gov under docket number CEQ-2019-0003.
For more information about the proposed amendments to CEQ’s NEPA regulations or the process for submitting comments, please contact Matthew Adams or Sara Mogharabi.