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Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Energy will save time and money in its environmental reviews of many proposed energy projects under revised regulations approved September 27, 2011, to implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The revisions focus on the Department’s categorical exclusion provisions, and reflect the first update to these provisions in 15 years. A categorical exclusion applies to a class of actions that an agency has determined normally do not individually or cumulatively have a significant impact on the human environment.

“Updating our NEPA rule allows us to accomplish our environmental reviews more efficiently, reduces costs to taxpayers as well as applicants for DOE permits and financial support, and focuses resources on evaluating proposals that have the potential for significant environmental impacts,” said Acting General Counsel Sean A. Lev.

In the revised rule, DOE has established 20 new categorical exclusions, most of which include criteria (e.g., acreage, location, and height limitations) that limit the covered actions. These categorical exclusions address  actions such as stormwater runoff control, alternative fuel vehicle fueling stations and electric vehicle charging stations, and small-scale renewable energy projects.

The revisions align the Department’s regulations with its current activities and recent experiences, and update the provisions with respect to current technologies and regulatory requirements. The revisions also increase transparency by providing more specific information on the circumstances in which DOE is likely to apply a categorical exclusion.

In preparing the final rule, DOE considered all comments received on the proposed rule published on January 3, 2011. Additional information is available on the NEPA Rulemaking page of the Department’s NEPA website,, and will be available on the Federal eRulemaking Portal (, Docket DOE-HQ-2010-0002) when the Federal Register notice is published.   The new rules will be effective 30 days after the Federal Register publication.

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