Draft Guidance on Improving the Process for Preparing Efficient and Timely Environmental Reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is issuing its draft guidance on Improving the Process for Preparing Efficient and Timely Environmental Reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act for public review and comment.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.