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Smart Regulation Comment Letter on Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act

Aug 21, 2018

Business Roundtable Comments on CEQ Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking  

"Update to the Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act” 

Docket ID No. CEQ-2018-00011 

 

August 20, 2018 

Introduction

Business Roundtable CEOs have long advocated changes to the federal permitting process to “simplify, streamline and accelerate America’s permitting process with the goal of encouraging large-scale capital investments in the U.S. economy while maintaining the nation’s commitments to health, safety and soundness.” Business Roundtable also strongly supported efforts for legislative reform of the federal permitting process for major infrastructure projects, which culminated in the passage of Title XLI of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, generally referred to as FAST-41. Because of its longstanding interest in reforming the permitting process for major infrastructure projects, Business Roundtable appreciates the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to consider updates to its regulations implementing the procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

Over the past decade, Congress has enacted significant reforms to the federal permitting process, including most recently the FAST Act4 for surface transportation projects, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) for federally funded water projects, and FAST-41 for certain major “covered projects.” This Administration also has prioritized acceleration of project permitting through two key actions. The first is issuance of Executive Order No. 13807, “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Project (One Federal Decision Executive Order). The second is the 12-agency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that took effect in April 20188 and is designed to streamline project permitting through implementation of the One Federal Decision Executive Order. These statutes and executive branch actions share many elements in common that have now become recognized as permitting best practices. Business Roundtable believes that CEQ’s regulations implementing the procedural provisions of NEPA should be updated to also incorporate these widely supported best practices. Failure to do so may lead to confusion over the appropriate processes agencies should follow in preparing environmental reviews. Business Roundtable urges CEQ to update its NEPA procedural regulations by incorporating the bipartisan reforms reflected in the FAST Act, WRDA and FAST-41; the best practices identified by the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC); the NEPA procedural provisions addressed in Executive Order No. 13807; and the best practices identified in the One Federal Decision MOU. By updating its regulations accordingly, CEQ can take a major step towards modernizing its regulations to help expedite project reviews, while remaining faithful to the core requirements of NEPA to protect the environment.