On December 7, 2011, the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued a draft guidance document on “Improving the Process for Preparing Efficient and Timely Environmental Reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act.” The draft guidance is available on the CEQ website at: www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/nepa/efficiencies-guidance and has been published in the FEDERAL REGISTER. 76 Fed. Reg. 77492 (Dec. 13, 2011). We have attached a copy of the guidance document as it appears in the FEDERAL REGISTER, which includes additional information and explains how to submit comments. The deadline for filing comments is January 27, 2012.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) prior to any federal action “significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” As implemented through regulations issued by CEQ, compliance with NEPA may also be achieved with a less-detailed environmental assessment (EA) and a finding of no significant impact (FONSI). In addition, many categories of federal action are treated as categorical exclusions.
The draft guidance is intended to emphasize and clarify numerous techniques in the CEQ regulations for preparing efficient and timely environmental reviews. In the draft guidance, the various techniques are discussed under the following headings: (1) Concise NEPA Documents; (2) Early NEPA Integration in Planning; (3) Scoping; (4) Inter-Governmental Coordination (State, Local, or Tribal Environmental Reviews); (5) Coordinating Reviews and Documents Under Other Applicable Laws; (6) Adoption [of EISs and EAs prepared by other agencies]; (7) Incorporation by Reference; (8) Expediting Responses to Comments; and (9) Clear Time Lines for NEPA Reviews.
While the CEQ regulations are mostly concerned with the preparation of EISs, the draft guidance makes clear that the various techniques for improving the process may also be used in preparing EAs.
If you would like further information or assistance regarding the CEQ draft guidance, please let us know.