On June 3, 2023, President Biden signed the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 (“FRA”) into law, extending the U.S. debt limit into 2025. As part of the Congressional deal, FRA also contains amendments to the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), including narrowing NEPA’s scope of consideration, streamlining the documentation of NEPA, and setting time limits, among other things. These amendments are notable as they are a rare statutory amendment to NEPA in nearly four decades. But for the most part, FRA incorporates existing regulations and case law developed over the years to flesh out NEPA requirements. Thus, the amendments are unlikely to significantly change the current practice of NEPA. But those opposing FRA’s NEPA amendments argue that more projects would now sidestep stringent scrutiny and would curb the public’s ability to voice input on projects. Others note, however, that these amendments will prevent repeated and unnecessary delays of important infrastructure projects.
FRA proposes the following substantive and procedural amendments to NEPA: