On June 4, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to take all reasonable measures to speed infrastructure investments and requiring the heads of all federal agencies to identify projects that can be exempted from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), or the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), pursuant to the emergency procedures within each act, among other requirements.
The Executive Order’s stated intent is to streamline regulations in order to remedy the ongoing economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The order first directed the expedition of several categories of projects, including (i) highway and other infrastructure projects under the purview of the Department of Transportation; (ii) civil works projects under the purview of the Army Corps of Engineers; and (iii) infrastructure, energy, environmental, and natural resources projects on federal land under the purview of the Departments of Defense, Interior, and Agriculture. The Secretary of each of the above listed agencies is also directed to provide reports listing the projects that have been expedited, as well as ongoing status reports for the duration of the COVID-19 national emergency.
The order then directs the head of all federal agencies to identify planned or potential actions of their departments that may be subject to the emergency provisions of NEPA, the ESA, or the CWA, and further directs the heads of the agencies to utilize such emergency procedures “to the fullest extent possible and consistent with applicable law.” With respect to NEPA, agencies, such as FERC, are further directed to identify projects that may be subject to statutory exemptions, agency-specific exclusions, or already completed NEPA analyses, or that may otherwise use concise and focused NEPA environmental analyses. Within thirty days of their identification of such emergency procedures, and every thirty days thereafter until the end of the COVID-19 national emergency, each agency is then required to provide a status report summarizing the actions they have taken.
Finally, the Executive Order directs all heads of federal agencies to review any other statutes, regulations, or guidance documents that may provide for emergency or expedited treatment with respect to infrastructure, energy, environmental, or natural resource matters, identify planned or potential actions that may be expedited through such treatment, and provide summary reports and status reports regarding such expedited actions taken by the agencies.
A copy of the Executive Order is available here.