Last week, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced their final adjustments to portions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Several ag groups have raised concern about the Phase 1 NEPA revisions and the negative impact it will have on agriculture. The latest revisions would effectively reverse the amendments made in 2020, which was the first comprehensive update in more than 40 years.
“AFBF is disappointed that the Biden administration has decided to reverse commonsense reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a news release. “We urge the administration to stop moving backward and keep focused on working with farmers and ranchers to advance sound, science-based and practical conservation goals that protect our resources while creating opportunities for agriculture as well as every sector of the economy.”
The Phase 1 revisions address three specific areas of NEPA regulations. The requirement of purpose and need statements has been reinstated. Federal agencies will now be able to adjust their NEPA procedures, establishing “CEQ’s NEPA regulations as a floor, rather than a ceiling.” The definition of “effects” and “cumulative impacts” have also been adjusted, negating the updates made in 2020.
Several agricultural organizations had praised the 2020 revisions for providing a more efficient NEPA review process. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), Public Lands Council (PLC), and American Sheep Industry Association were among the many groups to submit comments on the Phase 1 NEPA revisions. Collectively the groups heralded the progress made in 2020 in streamlining the NEPA review process.
“By returning to a pre-2020 standard, this rule returns environmental analysis to a failed model that industry and government have long agreed is woefully inadequate and inefficient,” NCBA Executive Director of Natural Resources and PLC Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover said in a statement. “This failed model will stall important environmental projects, delay critical infrastructure improvements, and impede progress made as part of ongoing NEPA processes.”
The White House has noted that CEQ will continue developing an even broader set of changes to NEPA regulations in Phase 2.