AGC supports streamlined environmental review procedures
President Trump and the Council on Environmental Quality announced a final rule July 15 to “comprehensively update and substantially revise” the regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
AGC of America responded in support of the NEPA updates that will reduce the cost, complexity and time spent on federal environmental reviews and related litigation – making it easier for businesses and communities to plan, finance and build projects. “Significantly, under the final rule, projects still undergo an environmental review with public input,” said AGC of America CEO Stephen Sandherr. “The key difference is that those reviews will last months, instead of years and it will become harder for special interests to delay the process with unmerited lawsuits. Notably, the substantive environmental laws and requirements that come into play on every construction project remain unchanged.”
In a multi-year advocacy and outreach campaign – including a 34-page white paper, environmental permitting flowchart, several congressional statements, and extensive comment letters to CEQ – AGC explained why the NEPA regulations, which apply to all federal agencies, have been too complex and unnecessarily difficult to understand and navigate – pointing to excessive paperwork, litigation, and delays. The final rule is effective Sept. 14, barring action by the courts or Congress, and will supersede any previous CEQ NEPA guidance and handbooks.
The final rule has broad implications for infrastructure projects that require NEPA review prior to construction: projects that need federal funding, a federal permit or authorization, or a federal land management decision. Under the final rule, all federal agencies must follow streamlined procedures, including presumptive time and page limits for completing those reviews (e.g., two-year and 300-page limits for an Environmental Impact Statement). The final rule also simplifies the analyses and processes that have led to litigation and project delays over the years (e.g., refines the range of “environmental effects” and “reasonable alternatives” agencies must consider).
Additionally, the final rule reduces the need to repeat environmental studies or recreate existing data (e.g., requires joint/concurrent review schedules, inter- and intra-agency cooperation and “combining documents” to reduce paperwork, and a single EIS/Record of Decision) – and builds accountability and transparency into the review process (e.g., new procedures to elevate delays or disputes and requirement to disclose to the public the costs of EIS-level NEPA reviews). All of these positive changes were recommended previously by AGC in comprehensive comments.