NEPA rule will eliminate unnecessary delays; reduce costs for construction sector

From ABC National and ABC Wisconsin

The Trump Administration issued a final rule to modernize and accelerate environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The White House anticipates the new rule will allow for infrastructure to be built in a timely, efficient, and affordable manner.

Associated Builders and Contractors Vice-president of Legislative & Political Affairs Kristen Swearingen said the final rule, which was released July 15, is a modernization of the Act.

“The modernization of these critical regulations will go a long way toward eliminating unnecessary delays that cause budget overruns in construction. Construction businesses recovering from the ongoing health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 will surely benefit from these modifications, which will help reduce costs and speed up project approvals so that hardworking U.S. workers can get back on the job quickly and safely.”

“The coordinated, predictable and transparent process to streamline permitting will also enable the industry to plan and execute even the most complex projects while safeguarding our communities, maintaining a healthy environment and being good stewards of public funds,” Swearingen said.

Enacted on January 1, 1970, NEPA was the first major environmental law in the United States. Often referred to as the “Magna Carta” of federal environmental laws, requiring federal agencies to assess environmental effects of proposed federal actions prior to making decisions.

According to the NEPA official website, “The updated regulations incorporate elements of the One Federal Decision policy, codify certain case law and CEQ guidance, revise the regulations to reflect current technologies and agency practices, eliminate obsolete provisions, and improve the format and readability of the regulations.”

The updates, which have upset many environmentalists, don’t change any underlying environmental laws like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.  Projects still must undergo environmental reviews including public input.

“This marks the end of a multi-year review, which produced more than 1.1 million public comments and involved a broad range of stakeholders,” according to a release by the White House.

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