The reform mainly focuses on streamlining and narrowing the scope of environmental review at the federal level.

By Janice Schneider, Nikki Buffa, Devin O’Connor, and Kevin Homrighausen

On June 3, 2023, President Biden signed legislation implementing the bipartisan debt ceiling and budget agreement as the “Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023.” As part of this legislation, Congress agreed to several federal permitting reform measures, focused largely on amendments to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the potential environmental impacts of discretionary major federal actions (e.g., including issuing permits and granting federal funding) before they are taken. As part of this analysis, agencies must evaluate alternatives to the proposed action and consider mitigation measures, and must provide an opportunity for public input. The scope and detail of NEPA review can affect the contours, timing, and ultimate outcome of federal decision-making and is frequently litigated by project opponents. The new amendments to NEPA in the Fiscal Responsibility Act draw substantially from other proposed legislation and regulatory amendments in recent years. These new provisions are designed to narrow the scope of federal actions that are subject to NEPA, consolidate NEPA review under a single “lead” agency, and impose time and page limits for environmental documents under NEPA, among other changes described below.