Nov 22, 2021 Association comments on CEQ proposed revisions to its “Proposed Rule” implementing NEPA
Our organizations represent a diverse set of economic sectors that form the backbone of the American economy—agriculture, energy, construction, forestry, manufacturing, transportation, and other sectors. Through the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the United States has made the most significant investment in infrastructure since the New Deal. The Act will promote projects that will enable the movement of people, goods, information, and energy to support the American economy. To ensure that the Act succeeds, further efforts are needed. In order to realize this investment, the Administration should ensure an efficient and transparent NEPA review process.
We fully support the fundamental goals of NEPA to better inform agency decisions and the public’s understanding of the potential environmental impacts of federal actions. A federal permitting system that is focused and aligned with these goals is needed for timely investment to address the digital divide in rural and large urban areas, to facilitate construction of public transit to connect communities to job centers, and to build out the energy infrastructure that is essential to our economic recovery and to progress on the climate challenge, to name a few key priorities. Recognizing the importance of an effective and efficient federal permitting system—and with a show of broad bipartisan support—Congress codified the One Federal Decision policy in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, providing clarity to the regulated community concerning agency coordination of environmental reviews.2 CEQ now has a similar opportunity with this rulemaking. …
The 2020 Rule strengthened the role of NEPA in the federal decision-making process by building on decades of experience and case law to tailor implementation to the goals of the law and to foster a process that provides meaningful information to decision-makers and to the public. Indeed, the 2020 Rule made changes that codified existing case law and agency best practices or clarified requirements that had often been misinterpreted and had given rise to litigation. We urge CEQ to retain the 2020 Rule provisions, which will support increased infrastructure investment, expanded project development, and improved infrastructure permitting and leasing decisions in a manner that strengthens our economy and enhances environmental stewardship. Furthermore, retaining the current rule language will provide much needed stability in contrast to the uncertainty and expense caused by shifts between Administrations.