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White House Finalizes NEPA Revisions

  • The rule implements last year’s debt ceiling deal and includes:
    • Setting clear deadlines and page limits for environmental reviews
    • Establishing one lead agency to handle such reviews
    • Broadening “categorical exclusions” for projects assessed to have minimal impact, and make it easier for agencies to share and/or establish those exclusions, and
    • Expanding the use of programmatic reviews
  • Projects that bring lasting environmental benefits, such as environmental restoration projects, will no longer be subject to environmental impact statements and agencies will also be required to identify preferred environmental alternatives earlier in the review;
  • The rule also requires agencies consider environmental justice and climate impacts (quantifying foreseeable emissions where feasible) as part of the review process and conduct outreach to marginalized communities so they can participate in the process, a reversal from key provisions in the 2020 rule, which the Biden administration deemed legally questionable and said “jeopardized community input;”
  • The rule applies to projects starting a review process on or after July 1, while reviews in motion before that date will not be affected by the regulation;
  • Opponents are expected to challenge the revisions through a variety of ways:
    • Sen. Manchin (D-WV), a leader in permitting reform efforts, has said the interpretation of the agreement is unfaithful and he will lead a Congressional Review Act to strike the rule
    • Sen. Capito (R-WV) says she hopes to get legislation moving by November to clarify and that would also curtail endless lawsuits that halt projects
    • Republican state attorneys general and industry allies are likely to sue and continue insisting the rule is an overreach and the administration doesn’t have authority to favor certain energy projects under NEPA
    • Just as with the 2020 rule that preceded it, the new rule could also be revised if the administration changes again in January
  • Data from the Transportation Department does show progress with environmental assessments completed in an average of 9.6 months compared with the 15.4 months it was previously taking.

EPA Announces $3B for Lead Pipe Replacement

  • Alongside the , EPA is also releasing a new that clarifies how states can use this and other funding to most effectively reduce exposure to lead in drinking water;
  • Additionally, EPA has developed to help water systems educate their customers on drinking water issues, health impacts of lead exposure, service line ownership, and how customers can support the identification of potential lead service lines in their homes.

President Issues Memorandum on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience

  • In a , the Biden administration urged agencies to adopt resilience and security mandates, in addition to voluntary measures, to protect critical infrastructure including the water sector from physical threats, cyberattacks and the effects of climate change;
  • The memo says potential new regulations across agencies should be risk- and performance-based when feasible; in accordance with relevant existing laws and policies; and should complement voluntary measures, avoid unnecessary duplication and be adaptable as risks evolve;
  • EPA said the water sector can better manage risks by building resilience into new infrastructure and federal funds, including money through the Drinking Water and Clean Water state revolving funds, could help with new investments;
  • EPA proposed mandatory cybersecurity checks for utilities last year but the agency withdrew the new requirements after groups and some Republican state attorneys general threatened to sue;
  • More recently, several small water providers have reported cyberattacks perpetrated by entities with ties to Iran and other foreign nations.

PHMSA Updated Emergency Response Guidebook Available

  • The Dept. of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Admin. (PHMSA) has released a 2024 version of its ;
  • The guidebook is free to emergency responders and provides guidance for the initial steps in response to a hazmat transportation incident.

DOT’s Modernizing NEPA Challenge

  • A has been announced by DOT;
  • Cash prizes will be awarded to those submissions providing solutions to increase efficiency and accessibility of documents associated with the ;
  • Fifteen awards are expected to be provided and award recipients will be invited to present their winning submission at a Modernizing NEPA Showcase webinar with DOT leadership later this year;
  • Applications are due by July 15 and to enter, apply .

On the Horizon

All times ET.

  • May 7 at 10:15 a.m. the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on ;
  • May 8 at 1 p.m., CISA will host an ESS AI webinar about ;
  • May 13 at 1 p.m., The National Weather Service (NWS) will host a webinar on .

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