Declaring that “Compliance with [NEPA] is a pre-requisite to successful implementation of DOE programs and projects,” the Secretary has signed a memorandum on "Improved Decision Making through the Integration of Program and Project Management with National Environmental Policy Act Compliance." The memo urges better use of existing tools and guidance, and highlights principles for strengthening NEPA compliance – for example, through Field and Headquarters teamwork, realistic schedules, and performance accountability.
Secretary Chu conveyed the findings of a NEPA Improvement Team established earlier this year by the Department’s Field Management Council. The team included NEPA compliance and program and project management staff from DOE field and program offices. The memorandum was endorsed by the Field Management Council and DOE’s Chief Operating Officer Board. The Secretary recognized that “DOE and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) have developed a considerable body of information, guidance and experience on ways to improve the efficiency of the NEPA process.” Among these is CEQ’s March 2012 guidance on Improving the Process for Preparing Efficient and Timely Environmental Reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The Secretary’s memorandum highlighted three principles from the CEQ guidance: encouraging concise NEPA reviews, integrating NEPA with project planning and decision making, and developing meaningful and expeditious timelines for environmental reviews. (See DOE NEPA Lessons Learned Quarterly Report, June 2012, page 7.) “CEQ’s latest guidance serves as a reminder that we must strive continuously to strengthen our NEPA compliance efforts,” said Secretary Chu.