*Article first appeared in Bloomberg Law on June 18, 2020.
A new executive order seeks to accelerate federal approvals of infrastructure and development projects, relying on various emergency authorities in environmental statutes. The authors of this article say the scope of these provisions, as well as their interaction with other laws, is uncertain, and investors and developers should be cautious of potential judicial challenges.
On February 18, 2020, a group of states and a national trade union filed separate petitions seeking administrative reconsideration of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA or Agency) recently finalized Clean Air Act Risk Management Plan (RMP) reconsideration rule (the Reconsideration Rule). The Reconsideration Rule became effective on December 19, 2019, and rescinds numerous provisions of the Obama administration’s January 2017 amendments to EPA’s RMP regulations under the Clean Air Act (the Amendments).
Three new rules issued by the Trump Administration may allow project developers to better plan future projects, and may encourage preservation and conservation efforts for both private and federal landowners. These rules, issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, revise how the federal government will address critical habitat designations, protections for threatened species and interagency coordination under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (the Agencies), have issued three rules revising how the federal government will address critical habitat designations, protections for threatened species and interagency coordination under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Agencies’ decisions have not yet been published in the Federal Register, but prepublication versions can be found here. The regulations will become effective 30 days after publication.
Regulations issued Monday could create a faster, less duplicative environmental review process for transportation infrastructure projects. Under the rule, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will share a single set of Section 4(f) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, with minor differences. 83 Fed. Reg. 54,480 (Oct. 29, 2018). The agencies explain that the changes “will provide a more consistent and predictable process for potential project sponsors, especially those that engage in environmental reviews for more than one mode of surface transportation.” Id. at 54,482. By joining the 23 C.F.R. part 771 regulations, FRA also fulfills its obligation under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The regulations go into effect November 28. (more…)