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Proposed Revisions to Improve and Modernize CEQ’s NEPA Regulations

June 2019

Citation: ELR 10529

Author: Lance D. Wood

When the president’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) produced its Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (CEQ NEPA Regulations) in 1978, those regulations were sufficiently comprehensive and of such high quality that they have received hardly any amendment or modification since 1978. Nevertheless, because of the long period of time since the regulations were issued, and in response to President Donald Trump’s call in Executive Order No. 13807 for CEQ to enhance and modernize the federal environmental review and authorization process, in the summer of 2018, CEQ announced its intentions to revisit and revise its longstanding NEPA regulations. This took the shape of a June 2018 advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) soliciting the various federal agencies and the general public to provide recommendations “on potential revisions to update the regulations and ensure a more efficient, timely, and effective NEPA process consistent with the national environmental policy stated in NEPA.” There are at least four very important NEPA implementation matters (three closely related) that CEQ should have addressed in 1978, and that it should address now by revising several sections of the regulations. The changes that I recommend in this Comment would address these four serious problems that have troubled federal agencies and the federal courts ever since 1978. Adopting the recommendations and the specific changes to the CEQ NEPA Regulations set forth and explained here would go a long way to help answer the call for NEPA modernization.

Lance D. Wood is the Senior Counsel for Environmental Law and Regulatory Programs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, D.C., and a Professorial Lecturer in Law at the George Washington University Law School. 

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