AGA-INGAA File Comments Aug. 20, 2018 on CEQ Advance Notice Seeking Ideas for Improving NEPA Rules
On August 20, 2018, AGA joined with INGAA to respond to the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANOPR) request for comments on how to update and improve the CEQ’s 40-year old regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The existing CEQ regulations provide an overall framework to guide federal agency environmental reviews of federal permitting and other actions to determine whether such actions could have a significant impact on the environment. Our comments suggest that CEQ’s regulations should focus on ensuring appropriate levels of environmental review, while avoiding wasteful duplication. For example, we suggested leveraging already available information such as recent environmental reviews in the area of a project rather than requiring a new and duplicative review of the same issues. We also suggested using advanced technologies and techniques to reduce the effort and time needed to develop information that is probative of significance, such as remote sensing technologies ranging from data analytics to aerial review. The INGAA-AGA comments also suggested that providing greater clarity around issues that are frequently litigated could greatly improve predictability and efficiency for reviewing natural gas and other infrastructure projects. In addition, we urged that the analysis of project alternatives must reflect the scope of the agency’s statutory decision and the purpose and need for the particular project. Our comments noted that the cumulative impacts analysis in NEPA reviews has been subject to frequent litigation aimed at expanding the scope of that analysis in a way that would not better serve NEPA’s purpose. We urged CEQ to clarify that the cumulative impacts analysis must be limited to impacts that are reasonably foreseeable and that provide meaningful insight to the agency’s decision, within the scope of its statutory authority. Finally, we agreed with the CEQ that Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and the time involved in their development have grown unwieldy and should only be long enough to accomplish their purpose.