Coalition Submits Comments to CEQ on Proposed Updated NEPA Regulations | Citizens Against Government Waste

Coalition Submits Comments to CEQ on Proposed Updated NEPA Regulations

Agency Comments

March 10, 2020

Docket ID No. CEQ-2019-0003-0001. Update to the Regulations Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking


Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) proposed update of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedural regulations. The undersigned free-market organizations strongly support the proposal, which will expedite reviews of major agency actions with significant effects, minimize litigation, and roll back NEPA’s misuse as an anti-development weapon.

This comment letter has two main parts. Part I responds to CEQ’s request for comment on how to revise its June 2019 Draft Guidance on NEPA consideration of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to ensure consistency with the updated procedural regulations, and whether or how the regulations should codify or address aspects of the GHG guidance.

The core argument of Part I may be summarized as follows. Numerous statements in both the Draft Guidance and Proposed Update imply that NEPA scrutiny of project-related GHG emissions is not required. The final Guidance should spell out those implications, which add up to a clear rejection of NEPA’s use as a climate policy framework. To give that assessment legal weight, the final Guidance should quote or reference the supporting language in the final Updated regulations.

Part II examines the Proposed Update in light of the Trump administration’s One Federal Decision goal and the Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) vetoes of Clean Water Act permits independently of the NEPA process—one a prospective veto before the NEPA process had commenced and another a retroactive veto after the NEPA process had been completed and the project approved.

The argument of Part II may be summarized as follows. The EPA’s prospective and retroactive vetoes undercut NEPA and precluded the very possibility of achieving one federal decision with coordinated and concurrent deadlines. Allowing either the pre-emptive or retroactive veto to stand would create a highly dangerous precedent allowing EPA to bypass NEPA or override NEPA-informed agency actions at any time. The final Updated regulations should expressly state that EPA may commence a section 404(c) veto only as part of the NEPA process, not before or after it.

Click for PDF of Full Comments and List of Signatories

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