White House Moves To Restore Key Environmental Review Rules
The White House took the first step to restore federal regulations guiding environmental reviews of major infrastructure projects such as highways and pipelines, which were scaled back by the Trump administration that sought to fast-track them.
The White House on 6 October took the first step to restore federal regulations guiding environmental reviews of major infrastructure projects such as highways and pipelines, which were scaled back by the Trump administration that sought to fast-track them.
The White House Council for Environmental Quality said it will restore key provisions of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations that had been in place before the Trump administration overhauled the rules last year for the first time in decades.
The new rule proposed by the White House council would direct the agency to account for climate change and other indirect environmental impacts of a project, empower federal agencies to consider alternative designs or approaches for a company's proposed projects, and let agencies adopt reviews that go beyond council's regulations.
“The basic community safeguards we are proposing to restore would help ensure that American infrastructure gets built right the first time,” said council Chair Brenda Mallory, who added that the changes can "reduce conflict and litigation" involved in the environmental review process.
Former President Donald Trump in 2020 revamped NEPA in an effort to fast track major projects such as the now-canceled Keystone XL oil pipeline that he said got caught up in red tape and interfered with his focus on US "energy dominance."
His NEPA overhaul allowed federal agencies to exclude the climate impact of a project, making it easier for major fossil fuel projects to sail through the approval process and avoid legal challenges.
Trump's rule also widened the categories of projects that can be excluded from NEPA altogether.
Over the last few years, federal courts had ruled that NEPA required the federal government to consider a project’s carbon footprint in decisions related to leasing public lands for drilling or building pipelines.