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Council on Environmental Quality updates key regulations to improve the federal environmental review process, reducing barriers to clean energy

April 30, 2024

WASHINGTON – Today, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) finalized phase 2 of its revision to government-wide National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing regulations in an important step forward to address barriers in clean energy deployment. 

“To meet growing energy demand while achieving our climate and public health goals, we must rapidly plan, permit, and build clean energy infrastructure: wind and solar, electricity transmission lines, and more. Environmental reviews and permitting need not pose roadblocks to clean energy, and these rules provide the playbook for how environmental reviews can be fast, efficient, and complete, without sacrificing analytic rigor or public participation,” said Alex Breckel, Director of Clean Energy Infrastructure Deployment at Clean Air Task Force (CATF). “We appreciate the administration for prioritizing much-needed improvements to the review process. Achieving the benefits of a clean energy economy requires new infrastructure across the country, and NEPA will continue to play an important role in ensuring large-scale clean energy deployment without sacrificing environmental protections.” 

CEQ’s final rule provides safeguards for environmental protection while reducing the timeline for development of clean energy projects that can have tremendous environmental benefits, especially for the climate. In our comments on the rulemaking, CATF recommended several ways to bolster coordination across agencies and to increase the use of NEPA approaches, such as programmatic reviews, that can both improve the quality of decision making and reduce review times.  

The final regulations protect the environment while identifying ways to lessen the required level of review by allowing consideration of enforceable mitigation – with monitoring – when considering environmental effects and creating a transparent process for responsibly creating categorical exclusions. CEQ also crystallized requirements to consider impacts of federal actions both to and from climate change and strengthened public engagement and environmental justice considerations. 

“We commend the administration for updating NEPA regulations, which strikes the right balance between expediting the review process and setting strong safeguards for the environment,” said Holly Reuter, Climate and Clean Energy Policy Implementation Director, CATF. “They codify best practices in NEPA, promote better decision making, and provide more clarity on how to conduct quality reviews. We look forward to seeing agencies integrate these practices into their own NEPA processes for clean energy projects.” 

CATF and the Niskanen Center recently released a report that highlights the impact of federal environmental reviews on new transmission lines. The report found that, though a small fraction of projects undergoes federal environmental review (3.5%), these projects comprise 26% of all new line miles added to the bulk power system. This updated rule has the potential to reduce environmental review timelines for the longer distance lines critical to improving grid reliability, delivering clean power from where it is most cheaply generated to where it is most needed, and shoring up grid resilience.  

Presse Kontakt

Samantha Sadowski, Kommunikationsmanagerin, USA, ssadowski@catf.us, +1 202-440-1717

Über Clean Air Task Force 

Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With more than 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit catf.us and follow @cleanaircatf. 

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