December 16, 2019

Inside EPA Quotes Fred Wagner on Modernizing the National Environmental Policy Act

2 min

On December 16, 2019, Fred Wagner was quoted in Inside EPA about modernizing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). According to the article, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is poised to unveil a long-awaited proposal to significantly streamline how agencies implement NEPA.

Under NEPA, agencies undertaking a major action—such as building roads and pipelines, or approving fossil fuel extraction—conduct either an environmental assessment (EA) or a more comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS), where they must take a “hard look” at the action's environmental effects and consider less harmful alternatives.

Streamlining proponents say that NEPA reviews have grown too cumbersome and must be scaled back, including with time limits, page limits, more coordinated multi-agency reviews, and more categorical exclusions, among other measure.

Wagner compared the coming proposal to changes made to sports long ago, including the “shot clock” that limits the time a basketball player can hold on to a ball, and the designated hitter addition to professional baseball.

“Was the advent of those sporting innovations an unnecessary concession to the public's desire for speed and entertainment? Have the games been altered forever by those new rules improved?...Fifty years from now, we'll hopefully look back at NEPA's 100th anniversary and say that the CEQ's regulations, even as amended, met the challenge of a changing world without sacrificing the benefits of informed decisionmakers and citizens,” he argued.