Environmental Regulations Waived to Streamline Infrastructure Projects
On July 15, 2020, the Council on Environmental Equality (CEQ) issued its final rule updating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This is the first time in over 40 years that CEQ has updated its NEPA implementing regulations. As stated on the White House website, these updates are designed to “streamline the development of infrastructure projects and promote better decision making by the Federal government.” These updates come at a time when our nation is struggling with not only crumbling infrastructure but an economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Below, we discuss the changes made to NEPA and their potential impact on the construction industry. Contractors on highway, road, bridge, and other infrastructure projects may soon benefit from expedited infrastructure projects. For construction-related legal assistance on projects like these, consult our Orlando construction attorneys with Cotney Attorneys & Consultants.
We’ve written at length about the numerous infrastructure challenges facing our nation. The final NEPA rule hopes to mitigate this problem and create jobs by speeding up approval for federal projects. The changes will reduce the types of projects that are subject to NEPA, shorten the time and page limits for reviews, and remove the requirement for government agencies to consider the “cumulative effects” that projects may have on the environment. Specifically, the final rule establishes a page limit of 300 and a presumptive time limit of two years for Environmental Impact Statements. Included are changes to require comments to be as specific as possible and submitted early. The final report also reduces the need for environmental studies or existing data to be repeated or recreated, respectively.
An Industry in Desperate Need
Unless Congress steps in, the final rule will take effect Sept. 14, 2020, and supersede all previous NEPA guidance. All federal agencies will need to follow these streamlined procedures when approving infrastructure projects. CEQ previously issued reports finding that the average time for agencies to complete Environmental Impact Statements was over four years with an average length of over 600 pages. Hopefully, these changes will expedite federal projects, thereby stimulating the economy, addressing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, and providing countless workers with steady work.
To the detriment of the construction industry, a number of high-profile projects have been stalled in recent months. Construction companies have had to furlough workers, restructure, and contend with the loss of revenue streams. Although CEQ’s final rule may be a boon for the industry, it may be too little too late for some companies. If your construction company is in need of legal assistance during these difficult times, an Orlando construction attorney at Cotney Attorneys & Consultants can assist you.
If you would like to speak with one of our Orlando construction attorneys, please contact us today.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.