Federal agencies “have shown they can uphold our country’s environmental values and deliver projects designed to stimulate our Nation’s economy,” said Nancy H. Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), in releasing the ninth quarterly report to Congress on NEPA compliance for projects and activities (projects) funded under Division A of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). 

CEQ announced that as of March 31, 2011, “more than 99 percent of environmental reviews for Recovery Act projects, or more than 190,000 of the 190,694 required NEPA reviews,” had been completed. In addition, CEQ noted that 12 of 24 Federal agencies had completed all NEPA reviews for projects funded by the Recovery Act.

We know that the health of our environment and the health of our economy are inextricably linked. – Nancy Sutley, CEQ Chair 

Cumulatively through March 31, 2011, Federal agencies completed more than 182,300 categorical exclusion determinations and more than 6,800 EAs, and analyzed 830 projects in EISs. Agencies concluded that NEPA is not applicable to more than 4,250 other Recovery Act projects. Together, these projects involve obligations of approximately $292.6 billion funded under Division A of the Recovery Act. Federal departments and agencies completed more than 1,600 of these NEPA reviews during the quarter ending March 31, including more than 500 that were completed by DOE. 

In addition, CEQ reported that approximately 690 NEPA reviews are underway: approximately 370 categorical exclusion determinations, 280 EAs, and 34 EISs. CEQ noted that roughly half of the pending NEPA reviews were added during the quarter ending March 31, 2011, largely due to the addition of approximately 2,000 new projects, many with NEPA reviews that have just begun. “One reason for the increase in new NEPA reviews is that as projects are completed with cost savings, the saved funds may be returned to the agencies and can then be used for new projects or activities,” explained Ms. Sutley in her letter to Congress. 

The pending NEPA reviews for DOE Recovery Act projects include 46 EAs and 21 EISs; DOE reported no pending categorical exclusion determinations. Of the 67 pending DOE NEPA reviews, 18 were included in the report for the first time. DOE NEPA reviews for 49 projects have been pending for more than 3 months (29 EAs and 20 EISs). Reasons DOE NEPA reviews are pending include a need to provide sufficient time to consider potential impacts to sensitive resources (e.g., cultural or historic properties), review information on an applicant’s change to a proposal, and respond to public comments. Also, for a number of pending NEPA reviews, DOE is a cooperating agency and must coordinate the NEPA review schedules with other Federal agencies. In one instance, DOE is coordinating its EIS schedule with a state energy commission’s review of the proposed project. 

As of March 31, DOE had completed more than 9,200 NEPA reviews supporting the obligation of more than $33.5 billion for projects receiving Recovery Act funding, an increase of almost $100 million since December 31, 2010 (LLQR, March 2011, page 11). Of the completed reviews, more than 9,100 are categorical exclusion determinations, 106 are EAs, and 24 are EISs. 

Future Reports

Section 1609(c) of the Recovery Act requires quarterly reports on NEPA activities related to implementing the Recovery Act through September 30, 2011. The next CEQ report to Congress will cover NEPA activities through June 30, 2011. Federal agency reports are due to CEQ in July 2011, and CEQ will submit the next report to Congress in August 2011. The CEQ reports to Congress are available at NEPA.gov . For more information, contact Brian Costner, Office of NEPA Policy and Compliance, at brian.costner@hq.doe.gov or 202-586-9924.