Department of the Interior Issues Order Streamlining NEPA Analysis for Energy Projects.
In response to President Trump’s August 15, 2017 Executive Order directing administrative agencies to review and approve infrastructure approvals in a more expeditious manner, the Department of the Interior issued Order No. 3355 imposing page and time limits on Environmental Impact Statements.
On August 15, 2017, Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt issued Order No. 3355 consistent with President Trump’s mandate to facilitate reviews for “infrastructure projects.” These projects are defined broadly to include public and private projects that service the general public, including in the following sectors: railroads; ports; energy production and generation from fossil, renewable, nuclear, and hydro sources; pipelines; and stormwater and sewer infrastructure.
Under Order No. 3355, Environmental Impact Statements for infrastructure projects must not exceed 150 pages, or 300 pages for unusually complex projects (not including appendices). The lead federal agency must also establish a goal to complete each Final EIS within one year of the issuance of the Notice of Intent to prepare the EIS. Extensions beyond three months of this date must be approved by the Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior. The order also mandates a review of the Department’s internal regulations and policies to identify additional parts of the NEPA analysis that could be streamlined. In fact, each Assistant Secretary, along with bureau heads, are required to provide specific recommendations to streamline the NEPA process.
Notably, however, Order No. 3355 allows for extensions on a case-by-case basis, and does not specify any consequences for failure to achieve the page limit or timing goals. The practical effect of these changes remain to be seen, though environmental advocacy groups will likely balk at these attempts to limit the environmental analysis in Environmental Impact Statements.