Council on Environmental Quality

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.

The president’s executive order aims to use the US government’s procurement power to achieve “carbon pollution-free electricity” by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.

By Jennifer Roy and Julie Miles

On December 8, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability (EO), which aims to set the federal government — the largest purchaser in the country with an annual purchasing power of $650 billion — on a path to net zero emissions by 2050. The EO establishes the following policies as part of a whole-of-government strategy.

By Marc Campopiano, Andrea Hogan and Joshua Marnitz

On September 22, 2015, the White House, through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), issued guidance to the heads of certain federal departments and agencies[1] (the Agencies) establishing metrics for the permitting and environmental review of infrastructure projects in the United States (the Guidance). The Guidance is intended to expand the use and reframe the purpose of the publicly accessible online Federal Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard (the Dashboard). To that end, the Guidance establishes a set of metrics to track permit and review timelines for certain infrastructure projects, and sets a schedule for collecting and posting that data to the Dashboard. It then outlines an approach for capturing and reporting the environmental and community impacts resulting from the federal permitting and review process.

The infrastructure projects covered by the Guidance include those projects in the following sectors: surface transportation (including all highway, rail, and transit projects); airport capital improvement projects; ports and waterways; water resource projects; renewable energy generation; electricity transmission; storm-water infrastructure; broadband internet; and pipelines (except those subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission oversight). The Guidance also provides that the Agencies can include other sectors, as appropriate.