Session A2.1

Using Programmatic NEPA to Help Enable Future NASA Missions

Michelle Rau & Tina Norwood

2:00 – 2:30 PM (PT) | 5:00 – 5:30 PM (ET)

About the Presentation

NASA missions into deep space and extended missions to distant planetary surfaces use radioisotope heater units (RHUs) for heat. A RHU contains a fuel pellet, about the size of a pencil  eraser, which contains Pu-238 oxide. The heat from the natural decay of Pu-238 is a well-tested and efficient technology for keeping spacecraft structures, systems and instruments at the necessary operating temperatures in deep space. Used in U.S. space missions since 1961, the need for RHUs in NASA missions is expected to increase as the agency expands its missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Senior technologists across diverse disciplines collaborated to help NASA navigate the complex intertwining of nuclear safety and NEPA compliance. In addition to NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) served as cooperating agencies on this important effort; Jacobs Engineering served as the authors of the document. NEPA professionals as well as nuclear experts worked in tandem to apply innovative techniques that considered the potential health effects from a nuclear mishap, in a concise and focused manner that could easily be readily understood by the general public.

For example, the Jacobs NEPA team worked to establish a defensible list of significance thresholds, based on DOE regulations, established health limits and expert input to defend the finding of a less than significant impact. This novel approach required extensive internal stakeholder engagement and was ultimately accepted by the appropriate nuclear authorities within the DOE, NASA legal and the general public. Implementation of the RHU PEA has the potential to save tens of millions of dollars per RHU enabled mission by eliminating the need for a mission specific Environmental Impact Statements and the creation of an early version of the Safety Analysis Report (SAR) to satisfy NEPA requirements.

 NEPA Track, 0.5 AICP Credits

About the Speakers

Michelle RauMichelle Rau
Senior Project Manager
Jacobs Engineering 

Michelle Rau is a Senior Project Manager and leads the NEPA Community of Practice Lead for Jacobs Engineering. She served as both the project manager and the NEPA lead for the NASA Radioisotope Heater Unit Programmatic Environmental Assessment.

Tina Norwood
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tina Norwood serves as the NASA NEPA Manager at NASA Headquarters. She is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the NEPA Program across NASA Centers and annex facilities and provides national level policy and procedural guidance applicable to each NASA Center.

Session A2.2

NEPA By the Numbers

John Ruple & Heather Tanana

2:30 – 3:00 PM (PT) | 5:30 – 6:00 PM (ET)

About the Presentation

Last year, we wrote critically about the CEQ's proposed amendments to NEPA in an article published by the American Bar Association. We argued that changes to the Magna Carta of environmental laws should be grounded in fact and supported by solid data in order to avoid significant unintended consequences. The CEQ ignored our advice. Today, we will summarize what we do know, and what the CEQ ignored, based on a review of 19 years of EIS filings; over 1,500 court cases challenging NEPA decisions; and a head-to-head comparison of hundreds of critical habitat designations, comparing designations evaluated in EAs against those escaping NEPA review.

We will show that the burden imposed by NEPA compliance is overstated and in decline; that less that 1 in 400 NEPA decisions are litigated and the rate of litigation is falling; and that NEPA appears to result in faster permitting decisions. We will also discuss the best available data on the causes of delay in permitting decisions, the relationship between time spent on EIS preparation and the rate of legal challenge, and why we believe that NEPA streamlining is likely to result in an increase in both litigation and the rate at which agency decisions are reversed, both of which are likely to delay rather than expedite permitting. We will also discuss opportunities for NEPA reform that do not come at the cost of environmental protection or public engagement.

 NEPA Track, 0.5 AICP Credits

About the Speakers

John Ruple
Research Professor of Law
University of Utah

John Ruple is Research Professor of Law, and Fellow with the Wallace Stegner Center for Land Resources and the Environment at the University of Utah's S.J. Quinney College of Law. His research focuses on the management of Western public lands and the resources those lands contain, and on empirically assessing NEPA practice and litigation. He is currently representing 53 law professors, who are supporting a challenge to the CEQ's recent amendments to NEPA's implementing regulations, in Wild Virginia v. CEQ. John received his law degree from the University of Utah and an M.S. in Natural Resource Management from Michigan State University. Before joining the University of Utah in 2008, John worked as policy analyst in Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr.'s Public Lands Office, as an environmental attorney in private practice, and a consultant specializing in permitting for projects on National Forest System lands.

Heather Tanana
Associate Professor of Law
S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah

Heather Tanana, JD, MPH (Diné) is an Assistant Professor (Research) & Wallace Stegner Center Fellow at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. Heather is experienced in state, federal, and tribal courts and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. She also founded the Indian Law Section of the Utah State Bar Association. In recognition of her work related to Tribal communities and the pandemic, Heather was awarded 2020 Attorney of the Year from the Energy, Natural Resources & Environmental Law Section and the Jimi Mitsunaga Excellence in the Law Award from the Utah Minority Bar Association. Heather is also Associate Faculty at the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, where she works with the Center’s Training team on developing and teaching Institute courses and collaborates on health policy related work. Heather’s research interests include exploring the overlay between environmental and health policy, promoting better practices in Indian child welfare, and criminal justice in Indian Country. She chairs the Indian Child Welfare Act Committee of the Indian Law Section. She is also part of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors of the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake.

Session A2.3

Integrating Climate Change in NEPA Analysis

Michael Conrardy, Elizabeth Bella, Emily Newell, & Louise Kling

3:00 – 3:30 PM (PT) | 6:00 – 6:30 PM (ET)

About the Presentation

With renewed interest in climate change considerations from the Biden administration, an efficient and streamlined process to assess climate impacts across disciplines will be key to meaningful inclusion in NEPA documents. The incorporation of climate change into NEPA documents has varied through multiple Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) guidance revisions, with three primary ways to address potential climate change impacts:•Effects of the project on climate change•Effects of climate change on the region of influence (ROI)•Effects of climate change on proposed project or programOur team developed a process to asses each of these impact by coupling a traditional evaluation of greenhouse gases as a component of the Air Quality analysis (effects of the project on climate change) and a resource-specific climate change effects analysis for each resource evaluated in an EIS (effects of climate change on the ROI, project, or program).

The integration of climate change into resource-specific effects analysis provided an opportunity to demonstrate the interplay of the climate change phenomena within the context of specific resources in the NEPA analysis. The analysis was accomplished through (1) selecting the most influential, relevant, and defensible climate change phenomena: rising global temperatures, change in precipitation patterns, increased frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, rising sea levels and associated storm surge, and ocean acidification; and (2) assessing these phenomena as predictable environmental trends with potential to influence each resource trajectory, both with- and without the project. To ensure consistency, all resource specialists addressed a common suite of climate change trends described in Step 1. The results of the analysis were reported in a manner that tailored text to streamlining objectives of current CEQ guidelines.

NEPA Track, 0.5 AICP Credits

About the Speakers

Michael Conrardy
Technical Practice Group Leader

Michael is a Technical Leader for Decarbonization and Sustainability in the Americas at AECOM. AECOM's Decarbonization and Sustainability initiative is comprised of hundreds technical professionals across the company supporting clients with diverse service needs. His technical and policy expertise is in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventories, climate change mitigation strategies, carbon markets, and integrated sustainable solutions. Michael has guided clients through tangible outcomes with as high as 40% annual reduction of direct GHG emissions from existing operations and establishment of strategies toward carbon neutrality. His client support spans sectors including agriculture, aviation, colleges, energy, seaports, waste, wastewater, and various government entities. Sustainability evaluations preformed use varying methodologies from relevant regulatory agencies, World Resources Institute, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives.

Elizabeth Bella
Planning Group Leader

Dr. Bella is a planning group leader in the AECOM Anchorage office. In addition to NEPA EIS and EA projects, her experience includes vegetation science, wetland, invasive species, and climate change modeling. Her team specializes in NEPA projects, state and federal permit applications, federal permit consultations, partner coordination, and public involvement processes. Her climate change work has included multi-agency vulnerability assessments, community planning workshop facilitation, collaboration on adaptation and resilience planning projects through partnerships and grants, and bio geoclimatic modeling applied to habitat and landscape type change. She has 20 years of experience. She has on the ground experience in planning, outreach, and research projects throughout remote regions of southwest and southeast Alaska. Prior to AECOM, she was an ecologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service. She studied historical plant invasion patterns for national policy planning as a postdoctoral scholar with the Bio-Protection Research Centre at Lincoln University, New Zealand. Dr. Bella holds a B.S. in Biology and Forestry from SUNY-ESF, a M.S. in Forestry from the University of Montana, and a Ph.D. in Ecology from UC-Davis.

Emily Newell
Senior Environmental Planner

Speaker details pending

Louise Kling
Environmental Planning Manager

Speaker details pending