On September 27, 2011, the Department of Energy (DOE) approved revisions to its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, and on September 28th, submitted the revisions to the Federal Register. The final regulations, which become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, are the culmination of a 2-year process to review and update DOE’s NEPA implementing procedures. This process involved internal evaluation, public participation, and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) review. The revisions are designed to focus Departmental resources on projects with the potential for significant environmental impact, to better align the Department’s regulations with its current activities and recent experiences, and to update the provisions with respect to current technologies and regulatory requirements. In undertaking this review and revision, DOE also fulfills CEQ’s direction that federal agencies periodically review their NEPA regulations. The revisions focus primarily on the Department’s categorical exclusion provisions. “Updating our NEPA rule allows us to accomplish our environmental reviews more efficiently, reduces costs to taxpayers as well as applicants for DOE permits and financial support, and focuses resources on evaluating proposals that have the potential for significant environmental impacts,” said Acting General Counsel Sean A. Lev.
In the revised rule, DOE has established 20 new categorical exclusions, most of which include criteria (e.g., acreage, location, and height limitations) that limit the covered actions. These categorical exclusions address actions such as stormwater runoff control, alternative fuel vehicle fueling stations and electric vehicle charging stations, and small-scale renewable energy projects.
Additional information, including the final rule submitted to the Federal Register, is available on the NEPA Rulemaking page of the Department’s NEPA Website, http://energy.gov/nepa. Additional information also is available on the Federal eRulemaking Portal (regulations.gov, Docket DOE-HQ-2010-0002).