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White House looks to future in major rewrite of National Environmental Policy Act

In a move garnering wide praise from construction and business interests, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced its final rule to comprehensively update and modernize National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations for the first time in over 40 years. Among leaders praising last month’s action, Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao noted, “These much-needed common sense reforms will help cut red tape and speed delivery of infrastructure projects all across America.”

The announcement followed a multi-year review of NEPA regulations, along with CEQ’s logging of 1 million-plus comments from a broad range of stakeholders on a variety of related issues, plus public outreach. “Under President Trump’s leadership, we have taken bold action to modernize environmental reviews. Through the rulemaking process, we heard from individuals, organizations, and job creators that the more than 40-year old regulations were overly complex, led to unnecessary litigation, and delayed important infrastructure and other projects. The final rule will make the NEPA process more efficient and effective, ensure consideration of environmental impacts of major projects and activities, and result in more timely decisions that support the development of modern, resilient infrastructure,” said CEQ Chairman Mary Neumayr. “The modernized regulations will benefit the environment, economy, and every American.”

“This update to the NEPA regulations will get government bureaucracy out of the way of important state and local infrastructure projects, allowing for new roads and bridges to be built across the country,” added Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought. “It took four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge, but with the abuse of NEPA, it has taken over 10 or 20 years in some cases to get permitting to build a much-needed local road or bridge—that changes [now]. With this update, NEPA will move from a job killer, to a job creator.”

“For far too long, critically important projects had been needlessly paralyzed by red tape. This common sense reform will dramatically improve the federal government’s decision-making process, while also ensuring that the environmental consequences of proposed projects are thoughtfully analyzed,” observed Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

“Thanks to President Trump, our outdated and cumbersome environmental regulations are modernized and better equipped to increase the prosperity of the American people,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “Throughout my travels, I have heard stories of beneficial and common sense infrastructure and other projects stymied and delayed in litigation and countless reviews. President Trump has rightly recognized that the law does not contemplate a time-consuming, bureaucratic review process merely because of minimal federal involvement. This NEPA reform will help unleash Americans from overly burdensome regulations as we recover and reopen from the coronavirus.”

“NEPA reviews have become very costly and time-consuming, threatening the construction of important infrastructure projects and job creation across this country,” affirmed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “There is a direct link between a wealthier economy and a cleaner environment. EPA is confident this regulation can help both the U.S. economy grow faster and safeguard its environment for future generations.”