Energy industry associations applaud Trump administration rule to streamline NEPA

Published on July 17, 2020 by Dave Kovaleski

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The White House Council on Environmental Quality issued a final rule this week to update the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the environmental effects of major federal actions — from the construction of roads and bridges to energy and infrastructure projects – on the environment. Over time, the application process for these federal projects has become more complex and time-consuming, Trump administration officials said. The new rules seek to facilitate more timely NEPA reviews by simplifying and clarifying regulatory requirements, incorporating elements of the One Federal Decision policy, eliminating obsolete provisions, and reducing unnecessary paperwork and delays.

The changes were applauded by several energy industry groups, including the American Gas Association.

“America’s natural gas utilities are making significant investments in modernizing our vast pipeline network while also drastically reducing the emissions profile for each customer through energy efficiency gains and advanced technologies,” AGA President and CEO Karen Harbert said. “A reformed permitting process will enable natural gas utilities to continue to deliver affordable and clean natural gas, which will be essential for our nation’s economic revival and achieving our shared environmental goals.”

The U.S. Energy Association (USEA) also commended the move.

“Critical infrastructure to transport much-needed energy supplies to population centers can’t wait 4-7 years to start construction,” USEA Executive Director Barry Worthington said. “All Americans need to feel secure that the roads and bridges they drive over are safe and modern. They need to rely on reliable electricity and energy supplies to live. That requires pipelines. The NEPA rule will also open the gateway for new renewable energy projects in a timely fashion. This is a bipartisan win.”

It also drew praise for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

“Regulatory hurdles under NEPA have triggered reliability challenges and forced electric co-ops and their communities to endure costly project delays,” NRECA CEO Jim Matheson said. “We support the spirit of NEPA, and these sensible modernizations are long overdue. Today’s announcement will ensure that environmental reviews and decisions involving multiple agencies are synchronized and efficient. These reforms will provide electric co-ops much-needed clarity and certainty as they continue to diversify their energy portfolios and increase the resiliency of their systems. Both necessitate the modernization or construction of new electric transmission and distribution facilities.”