What does the acronym “NEPA” stand for and how does it affect you as a Rio Blanco County resident? “NEPA” is the National Environmental Policy Act and the process that is required for all decisions made by all federal agencies.
In July, President Trump and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced key changes to the federal NEPA process. Changes that include limiting when NEPA will apply to projects, a time limit to complete NEPA, and a page limit to each NEPA document.
NEPA originated under the Nixon administration. It was created to require federal agencies to consider all effects of major federal actions on the “human environment.” The agency chooses one of, or combination of, the typically four alternatives that it evaluates.
In the past, NEPA has caused major delays on many projects including a 13-year delay on the expansion of I-70, decades on water infrastructure in the west, and prolonging grazing permit decisions and renewals. NEPA has been interpreted to apply to all projects on federal lands, regardless if a small portion of a larger project is on federal lands or the agency is only being a funding partner. New regulations clearly outline that only actions with major federal involvement and major in scale will require NEPA. Those where the federal government has a minor role, will not.
New regulations also state that if the impact is not significant, the limit is 75 pages and must be completed within one year; if it is significant: 300 pages and completed within two years.
These reforms should help everyone and are set to go into effect on September 14, 2020. However, don’t be surprised if lawsuits are brought forward to prevent the new regulations from becoming law.
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