WASHINGTON Tuesday’s announcement by the Biden administration that it is restoring portions of a fundamental environmental law. It requires that climate impacts and input from local communities be considered before federal agencies approve major projects such as pipelines and highways.
The Trump administration removed 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act requirements. Trump had complained that they slowed development of road expansions and mines.
According to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the final rule, which was announced Tuesday, would require federal agencies conduct an analysis of greenhouse gases that could be released over the life of a project. It also considers how climate change might impact new highways and bridges. The rule, which will take effect in 30 days and is expected to be in place by the end of the month, would require federal agencies to conduct an analysis of greenhouse gases that could be emitted over the life of a proposed project, as well as how climate change might affect new highways, bridges, and other infrastructure, according to White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Brenda Mallory was the chairwoman of the council and described the regulation as restoring basic community safeguards which the Trump administration had removed.
She stated in a statement that patching these gaps in the environmental review process would help projects get built quicker, be more resilient, provide greater benefits for people who live near them, and she believes this will result in faster project construction.
This move comes as President Biden’s climate agenda faces opposition from Congress and the courts. President Biden is also under pressure to increase oil production to reduce high gas prices in the United States. The Interior Department announced last week that it would offer oil and gas drilling leases to public lands and waters. This was despite Mr. Biden’s campaign promise that he would not end existing leases. Senior administration officials maintained this week that the leasing decision was necessary due to a court ruling and that it had also raised federal royalty payments that companies must pay in order to drill.
The Environmental Agenda of the Biden Administration
Although President Biden is pushing for stronger regulations, he faces a narrow path to achieving the goals he has set in his fight against global warming.
Friday is Earth Day. Mr. Biden will be visiting Seattle on Friday. His aides say he will give a speech to highlight efforts to expand solar energy, offshore wind farms, and clean energy initiatives that Congress approved last year as part a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure program.
Administration officials claimed that the new rule will not have any major immediate effects since the Biden administration has been considering the climate change impacts on proposed projects. However, future administrations will have to follow the same process or face lengthy regulatory processes and possible legal challenges to reverse it.
After several environmental disasters, including a crude oil leak off Santa Barbara’s coast, Calif., as well as a series fires that erupted on the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, President Richard M. Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act into law in 1970.
It requires federal agencies to evaluate the potential environmental effects of major federal actions before they are allowed to proceed. The agencies are not required to reject any projects that could worsen climate change, but they can examine and report on the impacts.
Trump’s administration had exempted the government from examining the potential ways that proposed new dams and pipelines might increase greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide or methane, which are warming the planet to dangerous levels. It required agencies only to analyze reasonably foreseeable consequences. Trump claimed that the change would eliminate mountains of red tape, which he said had delayed projects across America.
The Tuesday announcements made by the agencies required them to consider the indirect, direct and cumulative effects of any decision. This includes the effect that a new project will have on areas already affected by pollution.
The administrations changes encourage agencies and communities to consider alternatives to projects that are not supported by them.
Republicans and some business groups oppose the changes, arguing against additional reviews that would slow down the development of desperately needed infrastructure.
Karen Harbert is the president of American Gas Association, which represents natural-gas companies. She said that she is very disappointed with the regulation. In a statement, she stated that the new rule will prevent this country from completing its infrastructure projects.
The American Road and Transportation Builders Association, which is a trade association, stated in comments to Council on Environmental Quality, that federal reviews for many transportation projects can take between five and seven years. Some may last as long as 14 years. It argued that the new rule would make things worse.
The group wrote to the agency in a letter claiming that delays in project implementations due to the current NEPA process could often result from significant and demonstrable cost increases for taxpayers. This is straightforward logic, based on ongoing increases in labor costs and materials, among others.
Democrats and environmental groups supported the move.
Ral M.Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona, is chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. He stated that the Trump administration had stripped away and destroyed environmental protections.
In a statement, he stated that he was happy to see that the administration has acknowledged how wrong these actions were and is working to restore the protections that have helped sustain sustainable development for decades.
The new rule proposes that federal agencies have the authority to work closely alongside communities to find alternative approaches to projects. Local communities have always had the ability to amend or stop harmful projects using the laws process.
The final rule is the first step in a two-step regulatory process. According to administration officials, another set of changes will be made to the law in the coming months.