White House May Urge Greater NEPA Transparency

March 10, 2010

"Proactive disclosure" by the federal government? Who ever heard of such a thing? But environmental reporters may indeed have an easier time reporting the environmental impacts of federal actions if a new government-wide edict goes into effect.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality on February 18, 2010, published a new draft guidance to federal agencies on how they should carry out the landmark National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 (NEPA).

NEPA requires federal agencies to assess beforehand the environmental impacts of major actions they take — and to consider alternatives. Not only that, but it requires agencies to disclose that information to the public and requires "public participation" in the assessment process.

The four new NEPA policies proposed in February by CEQ cover (1) climate impacts, (2) findings of no impact and requirements for monitoring, (3) categorical exclusions, and (4) better tools for reporting to the public on NEPA activities.

CEQ is accepting public comments on the draft guidance; the deadline for submission is May 24, 2010.