Lawmakers request info from agencies on NEPA reforms

September 5, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News



McMorris Rodgers

A trio of GOP House lawmakers is asking four federal agencies to report on their progress toward implementing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reforms included in the 2023 Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), signed by President Biden in early June.

Last Friday, House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.); Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee chair Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.); and Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee chair Bill Johnson (R., Ohio) sent letters to the Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Dear DOE: In the letter to secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm, the lawmakers wrote, “Section 321 of the FRA includes provisions from H.R. 1577, the BUILDER Act, which also passed the House of Representatives as part of H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act. The section in the FRA streamlines NEPA and improves federal review times by designating one lead agency, limiting evaluation to a single environmental document, setting page limits on environmental impact statements (EIS) and environmental assessments (EA), establishing deadlines of two years for EISs and one year for EAs, allowing for categorical exclusions, and instituting the E-NEPA unified permitting portal, among other provisions. Depending on the project, DOE could be considered a lead agency or a cooperating agency, both of which would have a key role in the implementation of the corresponding NEPA reforms.” (Identical language is used in the letters to the NRC, EPA, and FERC).

Questions: The agencies are asked to respond in writing by September 18 to a series of questions, including how long they will take to fully implement Section 321, whether they are confident that they will meet the two-year and one-year statutory deadlines for the EIS and EA reviews, and whether they will apply the NEPA changes to projects and reviews that are already in progress or apply the changes only to future reviews.

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