(Washington) The administration of Joe Biden announced Tuesday the reinstatement of the obligation of federal agencies to study all the environmental consequences of the construction of large infrastructure projects, including on climate change, reversing a reform carried out in 2020 by Donald Trump.
Posted on April 19
The announcement concerns a law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), according to which any major project in the United States – highways, pipelines… – must be preceded by an environmental impact study, carried out by the competent agency of the federal government. .
In 2020, the administration of Republican President Donald Trump had limited its application, including the need to consider the “cumulative” impacts of a project (such as contributing to climate change), arguing that such studies were too complex and time-consuming.
The Biden administration, which since taking office has reversed many environmental decisions made by Trump, has chosen to restore previous rules.
Federal agencies will again have to assess the “direct, indirect and cumulative consequences of an action,” the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) wrote in a statement. This includes assessing “comprehensively the impacts on climate change” as well as “additional pollution released to neighborhoods already burdened by polluted air or dirty water”, he specifies.
Federal agencies will also be able to once again study “alternative approaches that can minimize environmental and public health costs,” in consultation with local populations.
The White House promises that this will not cause additional delays to construction projects under consideration.
This measure “will help ensure that projects are built right from the start,” said Brenda Mallory, head of CEQ, quoted in the press release.
The Democratic administration also indicated that “in the coming months” it will propose additional changes to this law.
The latter will have to intervene “as soon as possible” and be “as strong as possible”, commented Leslie Fields, from the environmental NGO Sierra Club, welcoming that this “basic environmental protection” has been restored.
The government’s announcement is “an essential step forward”, added Abigail Dillen of the Earthjustice association, but “the Biden administration cannot stop there. »
The government of Joe Biden, which has made combating climate change one of its priorities, has drawn strong criticism in recent days from environmental associations, after the announcement of the resumption of sales of concessions for the exploration of hydrocarbons on federal lands.