On Friday, the Biden Administration proposed a new rule to amend the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. Unfortunately, the new rule risks slowing down urgently needed development under the guise of “environmental justice.” Even worse, this approach is likely to backfire, working not only against the administration’s stated goal of speeding up the transition to cleaner energy sources, but also against the very vulnerable communities whose interests the Administration is supposedly championing.
As background, NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of major infrastructure projects before they receive federal approval. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) plays an outsized role in shaping NEPA implementation through its regulations. Friday’s regulatory proposal constitutes an update to CEQ’s rules—what the Biden administration is calling “Phase 2” of its NEPA reforms.
As part of the 2023 Fiscal Responsibility Act, which negotiated a rise in the federal debt ceiling, Congress required some commonsense NEPA reforms such as page and time limits on environmental reports and consolidated decision making under one lead agency. These changes should modestly speed up project timelines, and they mirror similar reforms the Trump Administration implemented (and Biden subsequently withdrew under Phase 1 of his NEPA reforms). The new CEQ rules codify the Congressionally-mandated changes, but also go much further than that by adding new provisions around issues such as public input and environmental justice.
Read the full article on Forbes.