With all the talk this election year about the advanced ages of the leading presidential candidates, it’s worth noting that last week, the Rolling Stones opened their latest concert tour in Houston.

Yes, the Rolling Stones: octogenarians Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and near-octogenarian Ronnie Wood are back on the road, more than six decades after they first broke onto the scene. Belying the conventional wisdom that 80-year olds should be taking it easy, they’re playing 16 stadium shows across North America over the next few months.

They even have a new album out. The lead single, “Angry,” is no “Gimme Shelter.” But it shows they can still capture the zeitgeist of the moment: from the protests over the Israel-Gaza war that have roiled college campuses, to opinion polls showing large majorities of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, everybody, it seems, is angry.

That includes the Stones’ generational contemporaries running for the White House. As former President Donald Trump rage-posts about his hush-money trial on Truth Social, the normally amiable President Biden has ratcheted up the harsh rhetoric about his opponent. And the election is still six months away.

Strangely, the one place where anger is usually a given – the halls of Congress – is a little less irate these days. Coming off a stretch when they avoided a government shutdown, approved a foreign aid package and renewed the federal government’s national security surveillance program, it feels as if bipartisanship has broken out in DC.

Further proof came last week when House Democratic leaders announced they would play no part in efforts by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to oust GOP Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA). Greene is upset that Johnson allowed votes on bipartisan bills, and she and at least one other Republican have vowed to offer a motion to vacate the Speaker’s chair. When rebellious Republicans did that last fall against former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), all Democrats joined in to remove McCarthy.

This time, however, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said Democrats would vote to keep Johnson in place. This is due to some degree to Johnson’s efforts to advance the foreign aid package despite opposition from many Republicans. But it’s also recognition of the fact that, should Johnson be kicked out, chaos would engulf the House, making it impossible to do anything else.

None of this is to say that Congress has become an exemplar of calm. Major battles lie ahead, and each party is campaigning aggressively to win control of the Hill in November’s election.

But this week’s events show that there is a limit to how far anger can take you, even in Congress. That may be a hard lesson for hardline lawmakers like Greene. But, as someone once observed, you can’t always get what you want.

White House Releases Revised NEPA Rules

Angry or not, the Biden administration has been moving forward with efforts to accelerate infrastructure projects. Last week, it announced a final rule to implement its reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The rule both reverses changes to NEPA instituted by Biden’s predecessor and makes reforms included in the 2023 debt ceiling deal. The proposal comes two years after the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued regulations to undo part of the 2020 NEPA reforms instituted under the Trump administration that exempted classes of federal actions from NEPA review and restricted the types of project effects to be examined during the NEPA review process.

As part of these so-called “Phase 2” regulations, and in compliance with the debt ceiling agreement, the new rule limits Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) to 150 pages and Environmental Assessments (EA) to 75 pages.

CEQ also restores provisions removed in 2020 and adds new provisions to ensure that the impacts of proposed projects on historic and cultural resources are considered. For example, the new rule adds to the factors agencies need to consider when determining the appropriate level of NEPA review “the degree to which the action may adversely affect unique characteristics of the geographic area such as historic or cultural resources, parks, Tribal sacred sites, prime farmlands, wetlands, wild and scenic rivers, or ecologically critical areas.”

In addition, CEQ removes language from the 2020 reforms that could have limited agencies from gathering more update information to analyze the effects of proposed actions, having previously noting that “in the context of analyzing historical, cultural, or biological effects, survey work is often revisited and reassessed periodically, and an agency should not be required to rely on outdated data.”

ACRA is currently reviewing the new rules and will share more information on their impact on CRM in the coming weeks.

DOE Reforms Permitting for Energy Transmission Projects

Also last week, the U.S. Department of Energy released a final rule to reform federal permitting processes for new transmission. The rule establishes the Coordinated Interagency Transmission Authorization and Permits (CITAP) program, whose aim is to improve coordination across agencies, create efficiencies, and establish a standard two-year timeline for federal transmission authorizations and permits. The rule makes DOE the lead agency for reviews under NEPA, Section 106 and other laws.

DOE also finalized a rule that creates a categorical exclusion under NEPA for projects that use existing transmission rights of way, such as reconductoring projects, as well as for solar and energy storage projects on already disturbed lands.