The National Environmental Policy Act: Pushing the Reset Button


This policy lab investigated options for the reform and modernization of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) — the granddaddy of our environmental laws. NEPA is a disclosure statute which requires that before federal officials can issue a permit, commit federal funds, or otherwise take an action that may have a significant impact on the environment, decision makers must have the opportunity to review an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that analyzes the potential environmental consequences of the proposed action and its alternatives. Many critics from both the right and left are dissatisfied with the way that NEPA and its state analogues are being implemented, prompting some legislators to advocate statutory overrides and agency officials to expand the use of categorical exemptions. Meanwhile, NEPA proponents are interested in making the environmental review process more user-friendly and efficient, while preserving its core disclosure requirements. Students worked closely with NEPA experts at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), researching NEPA reform options that the CEQ then integrated into its recommendations to Congressional and outside interests in reforming the NEPA process. These recommendations contributed significantly to new permitting reforms, including the Federal Permitting Improvement Council.


David Hayes 1

Clients & Deliverables

This practicum contributed to the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) broad efforts to modernize and reinvigorate Federal agency implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Students investigated recommendations for the reform and modernization of NEPA, with particular consideration of legislative and agency calls for various overrides and exemptions to NEPA.



  • Policy report, Comments and Recommendations on NEPA Reform for the White House Council on Environmental Quality  
    Download Report