The White House National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulation took effect on Sept. 14th.  The rule, which aims to speed up federal reviews is taking effect as planned after a Federal judge declined to block the measure on Sept. 11.  The decision is a victory for the administration’s efforts to speed up approvals, especially for pipelines, oil and gas wells, highways, and other projects.

The NEPA rule, out of the Council on Environmental Quality, eases the requirements federal agencies must follow to study the environmental impacts of permitted infrastructure and other major work, including instituting shorter deadlines and changes that make agencies less likely to consider climate impacts.  The rule was finalized in July marking the first significant update on NEPA since the Nixon Administration.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia ruled that conservation groups hadn’t met the legal bar for a preliminary injunction that would shelve the updated National Environmental Policy Act regulation while their legal challenge against it proceeds.

“While the movants need not show a certainty of success, they must make a ‘clear showing’ that they are likely to succeed on the merits as a prerequisite to a preliminary injunction,” Judge James P. Jones wrote. “The plaintiffs here may ultimately succeed in this case, but at this point they have not made that clear showing.”

States and environmental groups responded with a multi-front legal attack, with four different lawsuits pending in three federal courts.

During a Sept. 4 court hearing, Jones described the NEPA regulation as a “political act,” but questioned whether the judiciary should step in to halt it.

The case is Wild Virginia v. Council on Envtl. Quality, W.D. Va., No. 3:20-cv-00045, 9/11/20.

For more info on NEPA:  https://www.epa.gov/nepa/what-national-environmental-policy-act

(Politico, 9/14/20; Bloomberg Law, 9/14/20)

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This Week in Washington is an online news portal from the Water Environment Federation that provides updates on the latest legislative and regulatory developments that affect the water and wastewater communities. It provides concise reports of related bills, regulations, legal decisions, congressional hearings, and other federal government actions, following key issues from introduction to final determination.

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Claudio Ternieden
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