The Trump Administration reinforced its commitment to ensure that the Federal environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects is coordinated, predictable, and transparent.. President Trump, through Executive Order (EO) 13807, Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects, issued on Aug. 15, identified concerns with the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – including lack of coordination among federal agencies, overlapping statutory requirements, and redundant processes – and called on federal agencies to undertake reforms.
Under the Aug. 15 order, agencies must track the costs associated with environmental reviews and permitting processes for major infrastructure projects. President Trump’s goal is to cut the review/permitting time from more than seven years (current average when an EIS is involved) to just two years total. The EO makes clear that environmental protection will be maintained and the “modernization” process should focus on decision-making and good environmental outcomes, rather than bureaucratic processes.
The Department of Interior (DOI) and White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) quickly issued implementation plans. DOI issued a Departmental Order (Number 3355) Aug. 31 that establishes strict page and time limits for any EIS for which the agency takes the lead and identifies additional NEPA streamlining efforts. Most EISs need to be completed within one year and must be no more than 150 pages (or 300 pages for “unusually complex projects”). Environmental assessments will also get page limits, to be determined by the end of September by the various DOI bureau heads. On Sept. 14, the CEQ, which has oversight responsibility for NEPA across the federal government, published an initial list of actions in the Federal Register that it will take “to enhance and modernize the Federal environmental review and authorization process.”
These recent actions are consistent with and complement AGC’s focus and recommended reforms for improving federal environmental review and permitting. Executive Order 13807 and the subsequent actions by DOI and CEQ amount to some of the most comprehensive efforts by the Executive Branch to address the long-standing problem of federal environmental permitting delays.
For more information on environmental permitting, contact Leah Pilconis at email@example.com or (703) 837-5332.