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NEPA reset: A review of CEQ's sweeping changes to the NEPA regulations

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On July 16, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published in the Federal Register the highly anticipated final rule revising its regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in January 2020, CEQ proposed revisions that affect nearly every portion of the existing regulations.
 
This final rule is the only major revision of CEQ NEPA regulations since they were first adopted in 1978. While this final rule would not change the NEPA statute, federal court rulings in the past have often given substantial deference to the adopted CEQ regulations in their interpretation of NEPA requirements. 
 
Some of the changes codify court decisions and practices that agencies are already using. There are also significant changes to—and more specific requirements regarding—the scope and timelines for the NEPA process and documents. While we suggest that NEPA practitioners read the entire rule in full, this paper breaks down the key changes in the revised regulations.
 
Read this paper to discover:
  • How the final rule incorporates key elements of the One Federal Decision framework. 
  • Which factors can exempt a federal action from NEPA compliance.
  • Updated definitions that reduce the scope of required analyses.
  • How the final rule seeks to confine litigation claims to concerns raised during the NEPA process.

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