Executive Order 13563, Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review, was issued on January 18, 2011. The EO calls for periodic review of existing significant regulations with close reference to empirical evidence. It states that "retrospective analyses, including supporting data, should be released online wherever possible." NASA's final NEPA Rule was developed with the objective of minimizing repetition of requirements already contained in the CEQ regulations and with the understanding that these NASA-specific regulations would be applied with (and be bounded by) the CEQ regulations. The revisions were part of NASA's retrospective analysis conducted in 2011.
Click here for NASA's Final Plan for Retrospective Analysis of Existing Regulations (August 2011).
This review is consistent with CEQ's guidelines, Establishing, Applying and Revising Categorical Exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA], published in November 2010. NASA first notified CEQ of the need to update their NEPA Regulations in September 2007. Between May 2008 and the issuance of this guidance in November 2010, NASA worked closely with CEQ in updating NASA's NEPA Rule. In light of Congressional reviews triggered by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and in keeping with this the new guidance, CEQ requested that NASA expand their analysis of the proposed CatExs to cite NASA experience in implementing such actions without adverse environmental effect.
This was done and summarized in the Preamble of the Proposed Rule with actual sample CatExs and RECs posted on this Web site. Click here for the CatExs and supporting table. CEQ and OMB approved the revised rule, along with a short abstract and detailed preamble which were published in the Federal Register on July 21, 2011. Though no comments were received, NASA has requested a written conformity determination to be provided by CEQ be sent to NASA's Senior Environmental Official (which will be posted here upon receipt). The Proposed Rule was accepted as the Final Rule since there are no edits. The Final Rule will be posted here once published (being routed for the NASA Administrator's signature and expected to be published December 2011).
Additionally, as recommended in the guidance, NASA amended the NEPA rule to make the 7-year review of CatExs a requirement. This also provides a process to comply with EO 13563. Consistent with the commitment to periodic review and to public participation, NASA will continue to assess its newly updated agency NEPA regulations (currently being finalized) in accordance with NASA's retrospective analysis plan (see above) and CEQ guidance.