White House Moves to Reverse Trump Assault on the National Environmental Policy Act

NEPA - White House reverses Trump environmental rollbacks on the National Environmental Policy Act

On Wednesday, the White House took first steps to reverse a Trump-era assault on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The new rules will restore the Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) obligation to take climate change and carbon emissions into account for major projects. Officials say the Biden measure will increase the efficacy of new infrastructure and reduce the costs of lawsuits.

Why This Matters

The Trump Administration's rollbacks of NEPA were designed to accelerate highways, pipelines, and other major federal projects regardless of climate impacts. The move made it so the CEQ no longer needed to consider the potential climate impacts of federal projects. Coupled with the Trump Administration's resistance to approving federal offshore wind projects and other green initiatives, it was a green light to build dirty and dirtier. The Trump Administration's rules and rollbacks set the nation's clean energy infrastructure and environmental regulations back significantly. Now, the United States is playing catchup, with very little time left on the clock.

Phasing In

The proposed changes announced today will be "Phase 1" of the reversal and restore climate impact considerations. The administration will work on "Phase 2" in the coming months. CEQ officials told The Hill that these phases will accelerate the effects of the reversal.

CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory said that the upcoming restorations and additions will strengthen American infrastructure. "The basic community safeguards we are proposing to restore would help ensure that American infrastructure gets built right the first time and delivers real benefits -- not harms -- to people who live nearby," she explained. "Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help reduce conflict and litigation and help clear up some of the uncertainty that the previous administration's rule caused."

The administration says the "Phase 2" rules will also require the CEQ to consider the needs of local communities when evaluating new projects instead of what's best for developers. The White House is, however, maintaining one facet introduced by the Trump administration that created a provision for stronger tribal consultations.

Protect NEPA: What is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)?, January 27, 2020.