Climate Change Litigation on the Horizon with Trump Environmental Overhaul -
On July 16, 2020, President Trump’s Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”) published the long-awaited final rule revising the implementing regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). 85 Fed. Reg. 43,304 (July 16, 2020). NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impact of major federal actions, which include permitting for energy projects on federal land. Pipeline projects, solar and wind farms, oil and gas development, and other infrastructure projects must go through the lengthy NEPA permitting process before construction can begin. This process takes 4.7 years on average and can exceed seven years in some cases, and critics say these lengthy delays unnecessarily stymie construction and development and diminish America’s ability to compete in the global energy market.
The final rule is the culmination of a long process set in motion in the early days of the Trump administration, when the President directed CEQ to review its regulations to modernize and accelerate the NEPA process. See Executive Order No. 13,807 (Aug. 15, 2017). The final rule adopts in substantial part many of the changes proposed by CEQ earlier this year in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”), 85 Fed. Reg. 1,684 (Jan. 10, 2020), particularly about whether and how agencies must factor climate change into NEPA analyses.
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