Draft Guidance on Improving the Process for Preparing Efficient and Timely Environmental Reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is issuing its draft guidance on Improving the Process for Preparing Efficient and Timely Environmental Reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act for public review and comment. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and CEQ Regulations implementing NEPA provide numerous techniques for preparing efficient and timely environmental reviews. CEQ is issuing this guidance for Federal departments and agencies to emphasize and clarify these techniques, consistent with a thorough and meaningful environmental review and keeping in mind the following basic principles: (1) NEPA encourages simple, straightforward, and concise reviews and documentation that are proportionate to and effectively convey the relevant considerations in a timely manner to the public and decisionmakers, while comprehensively addressing the issues presented; (2) NEPA should be integrated into project planning rather than be an after-the-fact add-on; (3) NEPA reviews should coordinate and take appropriate advantage of existing documents and studies, including through adoption and incorporation by reference; (4) Early and well- defined scoping can assist in focusing environmental reviews on appropriate issues that would be meaningful to a decision on the proposed action; (5) Agencies are encouraged to develop meaningful and expeditious timelines for environmental reviews; and (6) Agencies should respond to comments in proportion to the scope and scale of the environmental issues raised. This guidance applies to the preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) consistent with legal precedent and agency NEPA experience and practice. This guidance does not change or substitute for any law, regulations, or any other legally binding requirement. Rather, it provides CEQ's interpretation of existing regulations promulgated under NEPA.
Instructions for Implementing Sustainable Locations for Federal Facilities in Accordance With Executive Order 13514
The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has issued instructions to Federal agencies for integrating sustainable facility location decision-making principles into agency policies and practices, as required under Executive Order 13514 (``E.O. 13514''), ``Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance,'' signed by President Obama on October 5, 2009. 74 FR 52117, Oct. 8, 2009. The purpose of the Executive Order is to establish an integrated strategy toward sustainability in the Federal Government including, efforts to operate high performance sustainable buildings in sustainable locations, and strengthen the vitality and livability of the communities for Federal agencies. Section 2(f) of the E.O. 13514 directs agencies to ``advance regional and local integrated planning by * * * participating in regional transportation planning and recognizing existing community transportation infrastructure; * * * ensuring that planning for new Federal facilities or new leases includes consideration of sites that are pedestrian friendly, near existing employment centers, and accessible to public transit, and emphasizes existing central cities and, in rural communities, existing or planned town centers.'' Section 5(b) of E.O. 13514 directs the Chair of CEQ to issue instructions to implement the Executive Order. The Instructions for Implementing Sustainable Locations for Federal Facilities are now available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/ sustainability/sustainable-locations.
National Ocean Council; Strategic Action Plan Content Outlines
On July 19, 2010, President Obama signed Executive Order 13547 establishing a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, our Coasts, and the Great Lakes (``National Ocean Policy''). The National Ocean Policy provides an implementation strategy, which describes nine priority objectives that seek to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. The National Ocean Council is responsible for developing strategic action plans for each of the nine priority objectives. As a first step, Federal interagency writing teams have developed content outlines for each draft strategic action plan. The NOC is seeking public review and comment of these content outlines. The purpose of the draft content outlines (outlines) is to provide the public with an initial view of potential actions that could be taken to further the national priority objectives. As such, they are an interim step toward development of the first full draft of each strategic action plan. In developing the outlines, the writing teams were informed by the comments received during an initial public scoping period that closed on April 29. Each outline presents in bulleted form potential actions to further the particular priority objective. It describes the reasons for taking the action, expected outcomes and milestones, gaps and needs in science and technology, and the timeframe for completing the action. The outlines also provide an overview of the priority objective, greater context for the strategic action plan in implementing the National Ocean Policy, and an overview of the preparation of the plan . Public comments received on the outlines will be collated and posted on the NOC Web site. The comments on the outlines will inform the preparation of full draft strategic action plans, which will be released for public review in the fall of 2011, allowing additional opportunity for the public to provide comments. Final strategic action plans are expected to be completed by early 2012.
Call for Innovative National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Pilot Project Proposals
The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) invites the public and federal agencies to nominate innovative pilot projects that accomplish the NEPA goals of transparency and informed decisionmaking in a more timely and effective manner. Nominations will be accepted via online submission until June 15, 2011. CEQ will track and publicize the progress of selected pilot projects as part of its NEPA Pilot Program, to identify and promote more efficient ways to do effective environmental reviews that can be replicated across the Federal Government. The NEPA Pilot Project Program is part of CEQ's broad effort to modernize and reinvigorate federal agency implementation of NEPA through innovation, public engagement, and transparency. The NEPA Pilot Program will also facilitate a review under section 6 of Executive Order 13563, ``Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review,'' of provisions of CEQ's NEPA Regulations that may be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome. 76 FR 3821, Jan. 21, 2011; 40 CFR 1500-1508.
Instructions for Implementing Climate Change Adaptation Planning in Accordance With Executive Order 13514
The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is issuing instructions to Federal agencies for integrating climate change adaptation into agency policies and practices, as required under Executive Order 13514 (``Executive Order'' or ``E.O. 13514''), ``Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance,'' signed by President Obama on October 5, 2009. 74 FR 52117, Oct. 8, 2009. The purpose of the Executive Order is to establish an integrated strategy toward sustainability in the Federal Government and to make reduction of greenhouse gas emissions a priority for Federal agencies. Section 5(b) of E.O. 13514 directs the Chair of CEQ to issue instructions to implement the Executive Order. The Instructions for Implementing Climate Change Adaptation Planning are now available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/ initiatives/adaptation.
Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on the Appropriate Use of Mitigation and Monitoring and Clarifying the Appropriate Use of Mitigated Findings of No Significant Impact
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is issuing its final guidance for Federal departments and agencies on the appropriate use of mitigation in Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The guidance was developed to modernize, reinvigorate, and facilitate and increase the transparency of NEPA implementation. This guidance outlines principles Federal agencies should apply in the development of their NEPA implementing regulations and procedures to guide their consideration of measures to mitigate adverse environmental impacts in EAs and EISs; their commitments to carry out mitigation made in related decision documents, such as the Record of Decision; the implementation of mitigation; and the monitoring of mitigation outcomes during and after implementation. This guidance also outlines principles agencies should apply to provide for public participation and accountability in the development and implementation of mitigation and monitoring efforts that are described in their NEPA documentation. Mitigation commitments should be explicitly described as ongoing commitments and should specify measurable performance standards and adequate mechanisms for implementation, monitoring, and reporting. In addition, this guidance affirms the appropriateness of what is traditionally referred to as a ``mitigated Finding of No Significant Impact.'' Mitigated Findings of No Significant Impact (FONSIs) can result when an agency concludes its NEPA review with an EA that is based on a commitment to mitigate significant environmental impacts, so that a more detailed EIS is not required. As explained in this guidance, an agency does not have to prepare an EIS when the environmental impacts of a proposed action can be mitigated to a level where the agency can make a FONSI determination, provided that the agency or a project applicant commits to carry out the mitigation, and establishes a mechanism for ensuring the mitigation is carried out. When a FONSI depends on successful mitigation, the requisite mitigation commitments should be made public.