Electric cooperatives are expected to save time and money on projects subject to federal reviews under a revamped National Environmental Policy Act backed by NRECA.
“These reforms will provide electric co-ops much-needed clarity and certainty as they continue to diversify their energy portfolios and increase the resiliency of their systems,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. “We support the spirit of NEPA, and these sensible modernizations are long overdue.”
NRECA will send comments to the White House Council on Environmental Quality on its efforts to modernize NEPA. NRECA also will participate in public forums on the proposal on Feb. 11 in Denver and Feb. 25 in Washington, D.C.
CEQ’s proposed update of the regulation, which has been enforced since 1978, would streamline permit approval processes to include a single environmental impact statement (EIS) and record of decision when multiple agencies are involved.
An EIS must be completed within two years and would be limited to 150 pages, or 300 pages in complex cases. Environmental assessments would need to be completed within one year and would be limited to 75 pages.
CEQ said under the current law, it’s taken an average of five years for federal agencies to complete NEPA reviews, which have resulted in reports of 600 pages or more.
“Copper Valley Electric Association would definitely have benefited by a more streamlined NEPA process,” said John Duhamel, CEO of the Glennallen, Alaska-based co-op.
In a recent hydroelectric plant addition to CVEA’s system, a one-year reduction in the NEPA process would have saved $700,000 and eliminated the need to purchase 1 million gallons of diesel. A two-year reduction in the NEPA process would have saved $1.4 million for the small co-op serving the Copper Basin and Valdez, Alaska. “More importantly, a streamlined NEPA process would have eliminated emissions caused by burning this diesel,” Duhamel said.
“Regulatory hurdles under NEPA have triggered reliability problems and forced electric co-ops and their communities to endure costly project delays,” Matheson said. “The updated policy will ensure that environmental reviews and decisions involving multiple agencies are synchronized and efficient.”