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CEQ Publishes Final NEPA Rules on Permitting

This week the Council on Environmental Quality published its final rules implementing permitting language for transmissions and low-carbon infrastructure projects. The “Bipartisan Permitting Reform Implementation Rule” revises procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) including recent amendments.

As a condition for increasing the nation’s debt limit last year, Congress mandated revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act. Within the bipartisan debt ceiling legislation were adjustments to environmental regulations aimed at expediting the authorization procedures for significant infrastructure ventures, including oil pipelines, highways, and infrastructure for renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. The guidelines unveiled by the White House Council on Environmental Quality on Tuesday are meant to assist federal agencies in implementing these regulatory changes.

According to a White House press release, the final rule sets clear deadlines for agencies to complete environmental reviews, requires a lead agency and sets specific expectations for lead and cooperating agencies, and creates a unified and coordinated federal review process.

Critics of the final rule point out that there are no firm deadlines on judicial reviews and the final rules changes are small compared to proposals currently in Congress. The rules also lay out requirements that prioritize certain projects while adding layers of reviews for some traditional energy infrastructure projects.

In July 2023, CEQ released its Phase 2 proposed changes to NEPA regulations. These proposed changes included: the addition of environmental justice and climate change impacts that must be considered in a NEPA review; a revised definition of “major federal action;” a limit to EIS requirements and allowance of project sponsors to prepare EIS’s; and changes to the use of categorical exclusions. Due to the size and scope of the proposal Energy Workforce requested a 45-day extension to the comment period. This would allow industry the time to review and comment on the extensive nature of the proposed requirements and their potential impacts on current and future business operations.

For further information on the impact of the final rule on the sector and industry, please contact the Energy Workforce Government Affairs team.

Maria Suarez-Simmons, Senior Director Energy Policy, writes about industry-specific policies for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.


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