The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is proposing the new rule, which aims to make the permitting process faster. The new rule would implement the provisions on review timelines that were agreed upon during the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling.
Under the proposal, multiple agencies will now be allowed to develop joint categorical exclusions, which means that an environmental impact statement is not required because the actions do not have enough of an effect on the environment. The proposal would allow agencies to consider a proposal’s environmental mitigation measures. Language will be added that clarifies that no environmental impact statement is required for projects that have only significant, “long-lasting positive impacts,” according to the proposal.
In the review process, the new rule will direct agencies to consider “environmental justice.” Though not a requirement, a provision that encourages agencies to avoid disproportionate environmental impacts on vulnerable communities will be included in the new rule.
A 2020 Trump administration rule regarding public comments will also be rolled back.
Biden administration officials say the new rules will allow for faster permitting to help meet the White House’s emissions goals. It would speed up the permitting process for projects involving electric transmission as well as other projects needed to curb emissions and accelerate the adoption of clean energy.
In order to stay on track to meet President Joe Biden’s goals for clean energy and infrastructure, the United States needs 60 percent more transmission, according to White House climate adviser John Podesta.
Before being finalized, the rule will go through a public comment period.
In 2022, the Biden administration finalized reforms to the NEPA review process that included requiring a full evaluation of climate impacts as well as the “direct,” “indirect,” and “cumulative” impacts of proposed projects to be considered by federal agencies.
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