CEQ Begins Process of Restoring NEPA Review of Cumulative Impacts

On October 7, 2021, the Council on Environmental Quality published a notice of proposed rulemaking to restore regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that the Trump administration had removed in a 2020 rule. The proposed rule—which is “Phase 1” of the agency’s plan to restore NEPA to its pre-2020 rigor—would make three major changes to current NEPA regulations. First, the proposed rule would require agencies to consider the “direct,” “indirect,” and “cumulative” impacts of proposed agency decisions. Review of cumulative impacts, which the Trump administration’s 2020 rule removed from the NEPA process, is frequently necessary to understand a project’s contribution to climate change. Cumulative impacts are also relevant to environmental justice analyses. In addition to restoring review of cumulative impacts, the proposed rule would also restore Federal agencies’ authority to develop and analyze project alternatives to minimize the environmental and public health costs of a proposed project. Finally, the proposed rule would allow Federal agencies to go beyond NEPA’s minimum requirements in their environmental review.

Comments may be submitted to CEQ until November 22, 2021.