[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 177 (Thursday, September 14, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 43226-43227]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-19425]


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COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY


Initial List of Actions To Enhance and Modernize the Federal 
Environmental Review and Authorization Process

AGENCY: Council on Environmental Quality.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is publishing its 
initial list of actions pursuant to Executive Order 13807 of August 15, 
2017, titled ``Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the 
Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure 
Projects,'' and published on August 24, 2017.

ADDRESSES: This Initial List of Actions will be available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/ceq and on the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) Web site at https://ceq.doe.gov/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Council on Environmental Quality 
(Attn: Ted Boling, Associate Director for the National Environmental 
Policy Act), 730 Jackson Place NW., Washington, DC 20503. Telephone: 
(202) 395-5750. Email: [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On August 15, 2017, the President signed 
Executive Order 13807 titled ``Establishing Discipline and 
Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for 
Infrastructure Projects,'' which was published on August 24, 2017. 82 
FR 40463. The Executive Order directs the Council on Environmental 
Quality (CEQ) to undertake a number of actions. In particular, Section 
5(e)(i) of Executive Order 13807 provides that ``[w]ithin 30 days of 
the date of this order, the CEQ shall develop an initial list of 
actions it will take to enhance and modernize the Federal environmental 
review and authorization process. Such actions should include issuing 
such regulations, guidance, and directives as CEQ may deem necessary 
to:

    (A) Ensure optimal interagency coordination of environmental 
review and authorization decisions, including by providing for an 
expanded role and authorities for lead agencies, more clearly 
defined responsibilities for cooperating and

[[Page 43227]]

participating agencies, and Government-wide applicability of NEPA 
decisions and analyses;
    (B) ensure that environmental reviews and authorization 
decisions involving multiple agencies are conducted in a manner that 
is concurrent, synchronized, timely, and efficient;
    (C) provide for agency use, to the maximum extent permitted by 
law, of environmental studies, analysis, and decisions conducted in 
support of earlier Federal, State, tribal, or local environmental 
reviews or authorization decisions; and
    (D) ensure that agencies apply NEPA in a manner that reduces 
unnecessary burdens and delays as much as possible, including by 
using CEQ's authority to interpret NEPA to simplify and accelerate 
the NEPA review process.''

Pursuant to Section 5(e)(i) of Executive Order 13807, CEQ identifies 
the following initial list of actions that it intends to undertake to 
enhance and modernize the Federal environmental review and 
authorization process:

    1. To comply with Section 5(b)(iv) of Executive Order 13807, CEQ 
intends to develop with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and 
in consultation with the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering 
Council (Permitting Council), a framework providing for the 
implementation of One Federal Decision. This framework may be 
supplemented with additional guidance and directives as needed.
    2. To comply with Section 5(d) of Executive Order 13807, CEQ will 
refer various requests for designation of State projects pursuant to 
Executive Order 13766 to the Permitting Council, Department of 
Transportation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as appropriate. CEQ 
will, as appropriate in response to any additional requests from 
States, refer projects that qualify for designation as high priority 
projects in accordance with Section 5(d) of Executive Order 13807.
    3. To comply with Section 5(e)(i) of the Executive Order, CEQ 
intends to
    (a) revise, modify or supplement its existing guidance regarding:
    i. Establishing, Applying, and Revising Categorical Exclusions 
under NEPA, with supporting information regarding established 
Categorical Exclusions;
    ii. Preparing Environmental Assessments;
    iii. Improving the Process for Preparing Efficient and Timely 
Environmental Reviews under NEPA;
    iv. Appropriate Use of Mitigation and Monitoring and Appropriate 
Use of Mitigated Findings of No Significant Impact; and
    v. Environmental Collaboration and Conflict Resolution;
    (b) review existing CEQ Regulations implementing the procedural 
provisions of NEPA in order to identify changes needed to update and 
clarify those regulations; and
    (c) issue such additional guidance to agency heads as CEQ may deem 
necessary to simplify and accelerate the NEPA process for 
infrastructure projects, including infrastructure-specific guidance to 
be compiled in a NEPA practitioners' handbook for infrastructure 
project proposals, to address issues including but not limited to the 
following:
    i. public involvement, including meetings and sufficiency of 
notice;
    ii. deference to the lead Federal agency with regard to key NEPA 
elements such as the development of the statement of purpose and need 
and range of alternatives;
    iii. appropriate cumulative impacts analysis methodologies or tools 
for infrastructure projects;
    iv. sources of information that may be relied upon in analyzing 
impacts;
    v. reliance on prior studies, analyses or decisions for projects 
within the same general locations; and
    vi. reliance on State, local and tribal environmental impacts 
analyses for purposes of NEPA.
    4. To comply with Section 5(e)(iii), CEQ will convene an 
interagency Executive Order 13807 Working Group, consisting of agency 
Chief Environmental Review and Permit Officers, the OMB Director, and 
representatives of other such Federal agencies as CEQ shall deem 
appropriate. The working group shall review the NEPA implementing 
regulations and other environmental review and authorization procedures 
and policies of Federal agencies that are members of the Permitting 
Council to identify impediments to the efficient and effective 
processing of environmental reviews and authorizations for 
infrastructure projects and to identify agencies that require an action 
plan to address the identified impediments. Based on this review, 
involved Federal agencies shall develop their action plans setting 
forth the actions they will take as well as timelines for completing 
those actions, and submit their action plans to CEQ and OMB for 
comment. Each agency's action plan shall, at a minimum, establish 
procedures for a regular review and update of categorical exclusions, 
where appropriate. CEQ anticipates that the working group will address 
a number of issues relating to environmental reviews, including but not 
limited to consultations pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered 
Species Act, compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic 
Preservation Act, and permitting and certifications pursuant to the 
Clean Water Act.

(Authority: 42 U.S.C. 4332, 4342, 4344; 40 CFR Parts 1500, 1501, 
1502, 1503, 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508; E.O. 13807, 82 FR 40463.)

    Issued in Washington, DC, on September 8, 2017.
Mary B. Neumayr,
Chief of Staff.
[FR Doc. 2017-19425 Filed 9-13-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3225-F5-P