On May 1, the Council on Environmental Quality issued its final rule on National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Regulations Revisions Phase 2. The final rule implements wide-ranging changes that will add unnecessarily burdensome and costly provisions to the federal environmental review and permitting process.

ABC issued a statement on the release of the final rule:

“These unnecessarily onerous new NEPA regulations will make it more difficult to build important projects and are a major step backward for critical infrastructure, the construction industry and America’s economic future,” said Vice President of Regulatory, Labor and State Affairs Ben Brubeck. “While both Republicans and Democrats have long agreed on the need for commonsense permitting reform, this final rule fails to meaningfully improve environmental protections and actually expands and lengthens environmental reviews that already take years.”

The final rule reverses important streamlining provisions of the ABC-supported 2020 NEPA rule and adds new layers of complexity to the NEPA process, including by doing the following:

  • Widening the scope of agency review of “context and intensity” of proposed actions
  • Removing language specifying that NEPA does not mandate particular results
  • Expanding judicial review of NEPA reviews
  • Removing rules placing reasonable limitations on the public engagement process
  • Adding new factors to environmental reviews, including environmental justice and climate change effects
  • Requiring agencies to identify “environmentally preferable alternatives”
  • Establishing new monitoring and compliance requirements for NEPA decisions involving mitigation efforts

Additionally, the final rule favors projects deemed to have environmental benefits (such as solar/wind energy, electric vehicle charging facilities and electrical transmission infrastructure) by allowing them to receive categorical exclusions that bypass the NEPA process.

Further information on the final rule is available in the White House’s press release. The final rule takes effect July 1. Federal agencies have until July 1, 2025, to implement the regulations into their own environmental review procedures.