On June 4, 2020, President Trump signed an Executive Order as part of an ongoing effort to stimulate the economy that has recently declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Executive Order has the potential of streamlining various permitting requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), the federal Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), and the Clean Water Act (“CWA”). The Executive Order proscribes reporting requirements for each of the mandates described therein.  

Notably, the Executive Order requires the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Secretary of Agriculture to expedite work on, and completion of, all authorized and appropriated infrastructure, energy, environmental, and natural resources projects located on federal lands. The Executive Order also requires the Secretary of the Army to expedite the delivery of civil works projects within the purview of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Executive Order further provides that federal agencies may take actions with significant environmental impacts without observing the regulations in emergency circumstances, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Executive Order then requires all federal agencies to use emergency procedures, statutory exemptions, categorical exclusions, analyses that have already been completed, and concise and focused analyses, to further the purpose of the Executive Order. Additionally, the Executive Order requires that the head of federal agencies identify planned or potential actions relating to the ESA and the CWA which could have the effect of facilitating the recovery of the national economy.

In effect, the Executive Order could streamline the permitting process for projects located on federal lands which would have otherwise been subjected to lengthy regulatory reviews. Ultimately, the Executive Order could be short-lived if the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer considered an emergency circumstance, or if President Trump is not reelected in the upcoming Presidential Election and his successor chooses to repeal the Executive Order.

A copy of the Order can be accessed HERE.