The Biden administration is rolling back a Trump administration rule governing the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act, moving to have federal agencies weigh the effects of infrastructure projects on climate change.
The Trump rule, which was meant to accelerate infrastructure projects by cutting down on environmental reviews and red tape, had been criticized by some environmentalists. Others, though, have said that simplifying and expediting the process for construction is necessary for green energy projects.
The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality issued a final rule Tuesday laying out that agencies have a broad “discretion to consider a variety of factors” when evaluating a project, including how it might contribute to climate change.
The new rule enables agencies doing the NEPA review to consider the “direct,” “indirect,” and “cumulative” impacts of their actions in approving a project, including the approval’s potential for contributing to climate change or additional local pollution.
A third change enables agencies to “tailor their NEPA procedures … to help meet the specific needs of their agencies, the public, and stakeholders.”
“Restoring these basic community safeguards will provide regulatory certainty, reduce conflict, and help ensure that projects get built right the first time,” said CEQ Chairwoman Brenda Mallory. “Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help projects get built faster, be more resilient, and provide greater benefits to people who live nearby.”
President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to use the regulatory regime to achieve its priorities of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and thereby mitigating climate change.
The Securities and Exchange Commission proposed a rule requiring companies to disclose to investors climate change-related risks, including all emissions associated with their operations.
Meanwhile, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates interstate pipelines, changed its policy statements governing pipeline approvals to consider climate change but has since dialed the policies back after sharp opposition from Republicans and the gas industry.
Biden ordered a review of Trump-era regulations when he took office, a number of which have been replaced.