by Matthew Daly
WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — The Biden administration is reinstating federal rules that require rigorous environmental reviews of major infrastructure projects such as highways, pipelines and oil wells — including climate change and the potential impact on surrounding communities. The long-standing reviews were rolled back by the Trump administration for fast-tracking projects and creating jobs.
A rule finalized on Tuesday would restore key provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, a baseline environmental law designed to ensure community safety measures while being reviewed for a wide range of federal proposals, including roads. , bridges and energy projects are authorized in a $1 trillion infrastructure law. last fall, the White House said.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality said the new rule, which takes effect at the end of May, should address the challenges created by Trump-era policy and restore public confidence during environmental reviews.
“Restoring these basic community safeguards will provide regulatory certainty, reduce conflict and help ensure projects are built the right way the first time around,” said CEQ President Brenda Mallory. “Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help make projects faster, more resilient and provide greater benefits to the people living nearby.”
Former President Donald Trump reviewed environmental reviews in 2020 to accelerate projects he said would boost the economy and provide jobs.
Trump made cuts to government regulations a hallmark of his presidency. He and his administration have often expressed frustration over the rules, saying they unnecessarily slow approval for interstate oil and gas pipelines and other large projects. Rule changes imposed in 2020 restricted deadlines for environmental review and public comment and allowed federal officials to disregard a project’s role in cumulative impacts such as climate change.
The new rule comes as the Supreme Court reinstated a separate Trump-era rule that curtails the power of states and Native American tribes to block pipelines and other energy projects that pollute rivers, streams and other waterways. can.
In a ruling that split the court 5-4 earlier this month, the judges agreed to block a lower court judge’s order to oust the Trump rule. The decision does not interfere with the Biden administration’s plan to rewrite the Environmental Protection Agency rule. Work has begun on an amendment, but the administration has said a final rule is not expected until next spring. During this, the rule of Trump’s era will remain in force.
Contrary to persistent claims from Trump and others in his administration, Mallory said a more rigorous environmental review would actually accelerate the completion of major projects, as they would be more likely to face legal challenge by environmental groups or states. Several Trump-era environmental decisions were overturned or delayed by courts concluding that they did not undergo adequate analysis.
Environmental groups lauded the rule change, which they said restores baseline environmental protection under NEPA, a 1970 law that required the government to accept public comments and approve any major project before environmental, economic and Health effects need to be taken into account.
Leslie Fields, Sierra Club’s national director of policy, advocacy and national director, said, “NEPA plays a vital role in keeping our communities and our environment healthy and safe, and Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine NEPA are clearly a nuisance for corporate polluters. were nothing more than handouts.” legal matters.
Environmental groups and African American, Latino and tribal activists have opposed the Trump-era rule change, saying it would worsen pollution in areas already affected by oil refineries, chemical plants and other dangerous sites. The Biden administration has made addressing such environmental justice issues a major priority.
Rosalie Winn, a senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, said, “Communities of color, in particular, have relied on NEPA to ensure that their voices are heard in decisions that have a profound impact on their health and their well-being. put it.” Trump-era regime.
The White House action “re-establishes essential NEPA safeguards and ensures that they will continue to protect people and communities today and in generations to come,” she said.
Business groups and Republican lawmakers criticized the rule change, saying it would slow down key infrastructure development.
Chad Whitman, Vice President of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs, said, “Significant projects that address critical issues such as improving access to public transportation, adding more clean energy to the grid and expanding broadband access are sluggish due to continuing delays and It should change.” US Chamber of Commerce.
Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman, the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, said the White House action would “weaponize Napa,” making it harder to navigate and more bureaucratic.
“At a time when we must unite around bipartisan methods to lower gas prices, reduce skyrocketing inflation, and fix supply chain woes, President Biden is unfortunately reinstating archaic NEPA rules , which will only result in delays and red tape and proactive worker litigation.” They said.