Regulatory Tracker

NEPA – Department of the Interior

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Trump administration
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Aug. 31, 2017 Department of Interior Deputy Secretary Bernhardt issues a memo, in the form of a secretarial order, directing that environmental impact statements must be no longer than 150 pages or 300 pages for “unusually complex projects.” The Secretarial Order No. 3355 is intended to “immediately implement” certain NEPA streamlining efforts and “begin assessment of additional such opportunity” and implementation of EO 13807. The Secretarial Order also directed that Final EIS’s should be completed within one year. It directed the agency’s bureaus to identify impediments to efficient reviews and provide recommendations for streamlining the NEPA process.

Jan. 31, 2018 The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issues Instruction Memorandum 2018-034 Updating Oil and Gas Leasing Reform. It outlines new policy to streamline the leasing process and includes a focus on using Designations of NEPA Adequacy (DNAs) in order to avoid more in-depth environmental assessments.

April 27, 2018 Interior Deputy Secretary Bernhardt issues a memorandum with additional direction for implementing Secretarial Order 3355. It outlines specific guidance on how to implement timeline and page limits as well as establishes procedures for waivers. It also directs the bureaus to review their NEPA handbooks and determine what changes should be made. Dep. Sec. Bernhardt simultaneously issues a series of other memoranda on the NEPA process including: NEPA Document Clearance Process, Compiling Contemporaneous Decision Files, Standardized Intra-Department Procedures, and a Questions and Answers document about the memos.

June 6, 2018 BLM issues Information Bulletin 2018-061 NEPA Efficiencies for Oil and Gas Development. The bulletin provides a blueprint for streamlining the process and for relying on existing NEPA analyses, Determinations of NEPA Adequacy (DNAs), and categorical exclusions where possible. The bulletin has resulted in some controversy over the proper process for approaching environmental reviews.

June 12, 2018 BLM issues Permanent Instruction Memorandum PIM 2018-014 that streamlines the NEPA process for applications for directional drilling into federal minerals from non-federal surfaces. The memo replaces an Obama-era policy and comports with industry interests.

Spring 2018 BLM issues Permanent Instruction Memorandum 2018-016, BLM NEPA Document Clearing Process, to “establish a new review and approval process for all Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and their associated Federal Register notices (FRNs)” in compliance with the memoranda issued by Interior Deputy Secretary Bernhardt on April 27, 2018. In particular, it outlines how BLM will comply with the one-year completion goal and page limits.

July 3, 2018, BLM issues WO PIM 2018-010, NEPA Compliance for Oil and Gas Reinstatement Petitions directing BLM oil and gas leasing offices to implement changes to their NEPA compliance policy before approving Class I or Class II oil and gas lease reinstatement petitions.

July 2019 The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement updates its NEPA handbook. Under the new guidance, environmental assessments must be completed in 180 days.

Dec. 10, 2020 BLM finalizes two categorical exclusions under NEPA: one for projects under 10,000 acres designed to remove pinyon pine and western juniper trees that threaten sagebrush habitat and another for harvesting of dead or dying trees, on 3,000 acres of BLM land or less.

Biden Administration
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April 16, 2021 Interior Sec. Haaland issues Secretarial Order 3399. The order instructs DOI’s bureaus and offices not to apply the 2020 CEQ rule revising NEPA’s implementing regulations “in a manner that would change the application or level of NEPA that would have been applied to a proposed action before the 2020 Rule went into effect.” The Secretary instructs them to continue to apply existing DOI NEPA regulations that were in place before CEQ revised its regulations and to elevate any conflicts to the relevant Assistant Secretary and CEQ. The order goes on to instruct Interior bureaus and offices to consider GHG emissions in their NEPA analyses and highlights the social cost of GHGs as an important tool. The order also emphasizes the importance of tribal consultation and environmental justice engagement in NEPA analysis.

Mar. 23, 2022 The Western Watersheds Project releases a report revealing that the Bureau of Land Management in the last year allotted 54 percent of grazing permit renewals without conducting the site-specific environmental analysis required under NEPA.