A Big Ray of Sunshine

July 21, 2020
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I hate that the daily news is filled with disheartening statistics of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has become frustrating to see the construction unemployment numbers and the sometimes-dismal projections for the construction industry for the rest of the year. It has been hard to find something to look forward to.

But a recent announcement from President Trump and the Council on Environmental Quality is parting some of those dark clouds. According to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), there is a final rule to “comprehensively update and substantially revise” the regulations that implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The AGC says these updates make it substantially easier to plan, finance, and build projects by lowering the time, cost, and complexity spent on environmental reviews and litigation.

In reaction to the announcement of the final rule, the AGC says on its website:

The final rule has broad implications for infrastructure projects that require NEPA review prior to construction: projects that need federal funding, a federal permit or authorization, or a federal land management decision. Under the final rule, all federal agencies must follow streamlined procedures, including presumptive time and page limits for completing those reviews (e.g., two-year and 300-page limits for an Environmental Impact Statement). The final rule also simplifies the analyses and processes that have led to litigation and project delays over the years (e.g., refines the range of “environmental effects” and “reasonable alternatives” agencies must consider).

Additionally, the final rule reduces the need to repeat environmental studies or recreate existing data (e.g., requires joint/concurrent review schedules, inter- and intra-agency cooperation and “combining documents” to reduce paperwork, and a single EIS/Record of Decision) – and builds accountability and transparency into the review process (e.g., new procedures to elevate delays or disputes and requirement to disclose to the public the costs of EIS-level NEPA reviews). All of these positive changes were recommended previously by AGC in comprehensive comments.

This is a big ray of sunshine that should warm us all up. The country needs to get to work on replacing and repairing the nation’s infrastructure. Our industry’s companies and employees need to get to work on it. This will definitely clear some barriers.

Click here for more details on the AGC’s reaction.

And for more information, you can contact the AGC’s Leah Pilconis at [email protected].