Efforts are underway to streamline the notoriously costly and time-consuming environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act. On average it takes 4.5 years to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) required under the NEPA, not including all the lawsuits generated under the statute. On August 15, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13807, “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects,” requiring agencies to establish time limits on NEPA review.
E.O. 13807 results from the administration’s efforts to improve and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure:
America needs increased infrastructure investment to strengthen our economy, enhance our competitiveness in world trade, create jobs and increase wages for our workers, and reduce the costs of goods and services for our families. The poor condition of America’s infrastructure has been estimated to cost a typical American household thousands of dollars each year.
A major roadblock in the way of improving the infrastructure is cumbersome environmental review imposed under NEPA.
Executive Order 13807 tackles this issue head on by instructing federal agencies to “make timely decisions with the goal of completing all Federal environmental reviews and authorization decisions for major infrastructure projects within 2 years.” The Executive Order defines a major infrastructure project as a project requiring multiple authorizations by federal agencies.
The Secretary of the Interior issued an order on August 31, 2017, which caps the length of pages for an EIS to 150 pages, or 300 pages for “unusually complex projects, excluding appendices.” The Assistant Secretary responsible for a project must approve any Environmental Impact Statement that exceeds the page limitations. The Secretary also announced the Department’s goal of completing “each Final EIS for which it is the lead agency within 1 year from the issuance of a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS.” The Assistant Secretary responsible for a project must approve any time extension that exceeds the one-year goal by over 3 months.