The following analysis was provided by ACRA Government Relations Committee Chair Kimball Banks.
CEQ is proposing to revisit and revise the 2020 revisions to 43 CFR Part 1500 et seq. using a 2- phased approach. ‘‘Phase 1,’’ published in the Federal Register on 10/7/21, focuses on specific provisions. Phase 2 will more broadly revisit the 2020 NEPA Regulations and propose further revisions to ensure that the NEPA process provides for efficient and effective environmental reviews that are consistent with the statute’s text and purpose; provides regulatory certainty to Federal agencies; promotes better decision making consistent with NEPA’s statutory requirements; and meets environmental, climate change, and environmental justice objectives.
The purpose of Phase I is (1) to eliminate language in the description of purpose and need for a proposed action when it is an agency’s statutory duty to review applications for authorization and make a conforming edit to the definition of ‘‘reasonable alternatives’’; (2) to remove limitations on agency NEPA procedures for implementing the CEQ regulations; and (3) to return to the definitions of ‘‘effects’’ in the prior 1978 NEPA Regulations which the 2020 regulations revised. The focus is on those provisions that (1) pose significant near-term interpretation or implementation challenges for Federal agencies and would have the most impact to agencies’ NEPA processes before Phase 2 rulemaking is complete; (2) make sense to revert to the 1978 regulations; and (3) CEQ is unlikely to propose further revisions in Phase 2. Three provisions are addressed: 1) Purpose and Need (§ 1502.13), 2) Agency NEPA Procedures (§ 1507.3), and 3) Definition of ‘‘Effects’’ or ‘‘Impacts’’ (§ 1508.1(g))
So what will the effects from Phase 1 be on cultural resources? If anything, the effects will be positive, specifically the expansion of assessment of indirect and cumulative effects. More attention can be given to effects on cultural resources.
We will probably have to pay more attention to Phase 2, especially if that addresses stakeholders, consultation, public input, deadlines, and size and time limitations on EAs and EISs.
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