Biden restores climate in environmental law, unseating Trump

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it is reinstating parts of a foundational environmental law, once again dem...


WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it is reinstating parts of a foundational environmental law, once again demanding that climate impacts be considered and local communities have a say before federal agencies do not approve highways, pipelines and other major projects.

The administration resurrected requirements of the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act that had been scrapped by President Donald J. Trump, who complained they were slowing mine development, road expansion and similar projects.

The final rule announced Tuesday would require federal agencies to conduct an analysis of greenhouse gases that could be emitted during the life of a proposed project, as well as how climate change could affect new highways, bridges and other infrastructure, according to the White House. Environmental Quality Council. The rule, which takes effect in 30 days, would also ensure that agencies give communities directly affected by projects a greater role in the approval process.

Brenda Mallory, chair of the board, described the settlement as restoring “basic community safeguards” that the Trump administration eliminated.

“Fixing these loopholes in the environmental review process will help projects get built faster, be more resilient and deliver greater benefits to people who live nearby,” she said in a statement.

The move comes as part of President Biden’s climate agenda faces headwinds from Congress and the courts. The president is also under pressure to increase oil production to temper high gas prices in the United States. Last week the Home Office said so would begin offering oil and gas drilling leases on public lands and waters, despite Mr. Biden’s campaign promise to end the new leases. This week, senior administration officials argued the leasing decision was necessary because of a court ruling and said it also increased the federal royalties companies must pay to drill.

On Friday, Earth Day, Mr Biden will be in Seattle, where aides said he is expected to deliver a speech highlighting efforts to develop solar power and offshore wind farms as well as clean energy initiatives that Congress authorized last year as part of a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.

Administration officials said the new rule would not have major immediate impacts since the Biden administration had already assessed the climate change impacts of proposed projects. But that would force future administrations to respect the process or undertake a lengthy regulatory process and possibly legal challenges to overturn it again.

The National Environmental Policy Act was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970, after several environmental disasters, including a crude oil spill off Santa Barbara, California, and a series of fires on the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River in Ohio. which shocked the nation.

It requires federal agencies to assess the potential environmental impacts of proposed major federal actions before authorizing them to proceed. Agencies are not required to reject projects that may worsen climate change, only to review and report impacts.

The Trump administration had exempted the government from considering the ways in which proposed new dams or pipelines, for example, could increase emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that warm the planet to dangerous levels. It required agencies to analyze only “reasonably foreseeable” impacts. Mr Trump said the change would eliminate “mountains and mountains of paperwork” which he said had delayed projects across the country.

Under the changes announced Tuesday, agencies would have to consider the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of a decision, including the effect a new project would have on neighborhoods already burdened with pollution.

The administration’s changes also encourage agencies to explore alternatives to projects that local communities oppose, and he says the law’s requirements are “a floor rather than a ceiling” on environmental reviews.

Republicans and some business groups are hostile to the changes, arguing that additional reviews would delay the development of much-needed infrastructure.

Karen Harbert, president of the American Gas Association, which represents natural gas companies, said she was “extremely disappointed” with the regulations. “This new rule will hinder the infrastructure projects that this country needs,” she said in a statement.

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association, a trade organization, wrote in comments to the Council on Environmental Quality that federal reviews of many transportation projects take five to seven years, with some lasting up to 14 years. The new rule, he argued, would make matters even worse.

“Project delays resulting from the current NEPA process will often result in demonstrable and significant costs to ratepayers,” the group wrote in a letter to the agency. “It’s simple logic, based on the continuing increase in labor and material costs, among other factors.”

Democrats and environmental groups embraced the decision.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the Trump administration has “stripped and gutted” environmental protections.

“I am pleased that this administration recognizes how blatantly wrong these actions were and is moving forward to restore the protections that have helped protect our environment while promoting sustainable development for decades,” he said. he said in a statement.

The new rule also proposes to give federal agencies the power to work closely with communities to develop alternative approaches to projects. Historically, the law process has been one of the most important tools available to local communities to attempt to alter or stop projects that could cause significant harm.

The final rule represents the first phase of a two-step regulatory process. Administration officials said in the coming months it will propose another round of broader changes to the law.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden restores climate in environmental law, unseating Trump
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