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Making Sense of NEPA Streamlining

Friday, August 28
10:00–10:45 AM PT
 | 1:00–1:45 PM ET

About the Session

On August 15, 2017, Executive Order (EO) 13807 “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects” was signed. The EO was designed to produce more efficient and effective federal infrastructure decisions and to change how the Federal Government processes environmental reviews.  More than two years later, and with multiple agencies having issued page limits and time limits for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents, where are we now with respect to NEPA streamlining?  What guidance has been developed and what more needs to be done?

In streamlining environmental review and permitting, the goal of the current administration is to encourage construction of projects by requiring more concise NEPA documents prepared under more aggressive timeframes. This streamlining initiative needs to be balanced against the need to comply with other environmental laws and regulations (Endangered Species Act, National Historic Preservation Act, etc). Some of the directives coming out of the streamlining initiatives are overlapping while others continue to evolve, creating uncertainty among regulators, project proponents, and environmental professionals regarding the best path forward.

There are many challenges to interpreting and implementing the initiatives and conducting streamlined NEPA analyses in a way that is compliant with the full suite of applicable laws and regulations. How should projects that include both a federal nexus and a state environmental requirement ensure compliance with both statutes? How is the start date for an Environmental Assessment (EA) determined? How does streamlining impact determinations of whether to prepare an EA or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)? How are appendices and technical reports best integrated into NEPA documents? 

Despite these and other challenges, there have been success stories; projects where the NEPA streamlining worked as intended. There are specific instances where the project timeline was notably faster than for similar past projects or where a page-limited EA or EIS was achieved without compromising an adequate and defensible analysis. What made these projects successful and what are the key takeaways for replicating success for other projects?

This presentation will provide attendees with an overview of where we are today with NEPA streamlining, how we got here, and where to go next.  We will take a closer look at the overlapping and evolving guidance on streamlining as seen in the Memorandum of Understanding on One Federal Decision, FAST-41, the Department of Interior Secretarial Order 3355, and the Department of Transportation Interim Policies on Page Limits for NEPA Documents. Specific examples from Department of Interior projects including NEPA analyses for Habitat Conservation Plans and Department of Transportation projects including NEPA analyses for commercial aerospace projects will be highlighted to explore the challenges and successes surrounding NEPA streamlining initiatives. 


  • NEPA

About the Speaker

Pam Schanel
Managing Director

Pam Schanel, is a managing director with ICF. She has over 20 years of experience preparing and reviewing NEPA documents and delivering NEPA trainings to a wide range of audiences. She has extensive experience analyzing environmental impacts, facilitating public involvement, and coordinating Federal, state, and local stakeholder engagement and consultation for complex and controversial projects. Pam has managed the preparation and review of several Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and dozens of Environmental Assessments (EAs). She has planned and facilitated dozens of scoping meetings and public hearings for Department of Transportation, Department of Defense, and Surface Transportation Board NEPA projects. Pam supports ICF’s efforts to revise the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) NEPA Implementing Regulation and develop a companion Desk Reference providing guidance to all FAA NEPA practitioners.

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