Washington, D.C. – A new column from the Center for American Progress urges the Biden administration to quickly reverse one of the largest environmental rollbacks in U.S. history—the Trump administration’s gutting of the regulations that implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Since it was enacted in 1970, NEPA has been a pillar of environmental law, requiring agencies to consider the environmental and public health impacts of proposed federal actions. But the real teeth of NEPA come from its implementing regulations that detail how federal agencies must conduct their environmental reviews.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration essentially gutted those rules last year in a way that severely undermines environmental justice, the protection of ecological systems, and efforts to combat climate change. The result is an effort to ram through construction of projects that emit high levels of greenhouse gases while cutting the American public out of the process—especially communities of color, who disproportionately suffer from a toxic legacy of pollution. The Biden administration now has a strong opening to modernize these implementing regulations, ensuring that environmental review is conducted inclusively and efficiently to produce climate-resilient infrastructure.
“To build back a better United States, we need to build back a better environmental review process,” said Christy Goldfuss, senior vice president for Energy and Environment Policy at CAP. “The Biden administration must strengthen the regulations that implement NEPA during the first 100 days to ensure that federal infrastructure investments result in an equitable and just clean energy future.”
“The Biden administration has an extraordinary opportunity to make our nation’s infrastructure climate-ready and work to right decades of environmental injustice,” said Stephen Schima, senior legislative counsel at Earthjustice, and Jill Tauber, vice president of Litigation for Climate and Energy at Earthjustice, in a joint statement. “Ensuring that environmental review is up to the task—to protect communities, ensure that everyone has a voice in the process, and smartly and efficiently account for projects’ climate impacts or benefits—should be a significant priority of Biden’s Council on Environmental Quality in the early days of this administration.”
The analysis urges the Council on Environmental Quality to rescind and replace the Trump administration’s NEPA regulations. It also outlines several ways the Biden administration can address NEPA within the first 100 days:
- Stop the implementation of Trump-era NEPA regulations.
- Equip agencies with adequate resources to implement NEPA.
- Improve agency coordination and transparency.
- Work with project proponents to get NEPA right.
Read the column: “How the Biden Administration Can Modernize Environmental Review” by Christy Goldfuss, Elise Gout, and Sally Hardin
For more information on this topic or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at gro.ssergorpnacirema@lenanahs or 202-478-6327.