WASHINGTON -- The Biden administration announced on Tuesday stronger public and environmental review requirements under a bedrock environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The move reversed a rollback by the Trump administration of the requirements, which had limited public review of federal infrastructure projects in an effort to shove through the permitting of new freeways, fossil fuel power plants and pipelines.
Before the Trump administration’s rollback, NEPA had helped federal agencies for decades minimize the environmental impact of the projects they oversaw and allowed for public input into all planning efforts. The new rule requires agencies to consider a project’s direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on climate change.
U.S. PIRG, Environment America and our research partners had called on Biden to restore strong public and environmental review requirements under NEPA in the "First Things to Fix" report, which outlined 20 environmental priorities the president should enact when beginning his time in office. In 2020, Environment America filed suit alongside other environmental organizations to strike down the federal rules gutting NEPA.
Experts from Environment America and U.S. PIRG issued the following statements:
“NEPA has historically provided the opportunity for countless Americans to weigh in on the environmental impacts of projects in their communities that impact their lives and their families. The Biden administration’s actions recognize that major projects, like highways, can have major impacts on our climate and should be evaluated under those considerations,” said Lisa Frank, Environment America Washington Legislative Office executive director. “We’re happy to see this return to common-sense environmental oversight of projects proposed in our communities.”
“The Biden administration restored a promise to Americans today that the Trump administration failed to keep,” said Matt Casale, U.S. PIRG Environment Campaigns director. “When NEPA was originally signed into law in 1970, a promise was made to protect our air, water and the health of all Americans. Restoring strong public and environmental review requirements under NEPA will ensure that damaging infrastructure projects, like new highways, pipelines and fossil fuel plants, can’t be rushed through the approval process. It will ensure that the public will have its voice heard and the environment will be better protected.”