White House Streamlines Environmental Reviews with New Rule

 White House Streamlines Environmental Reviews with New Rule

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In a move to expedite the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process, the White House Council on Environmental Quality has issued a proposed rule. This development is part of a larger deal reached to raise the debt ceiling earlier this year.

The new rule aims to simplify the NEPA review process by allowing multiple agencies to collaborate on joint categorical exclusions. These exclusions refer to actions that are not significant enough to necessitate an environmental impact statement. Furthermore, the rule explicitly states that projects with “significant, long-lasting positive impacts” will also be exempt from requiring an environmental impact statement, as clarified by CEQ officials during a recent call with reporters.

As part of this streamlining effort, the rule reverses a 2020 Trump administration regulation that imposed onerous requirements for public comments, which ultimately discouraged public participation in the process. Instead, the proposed rule instructs agencies to take into account environmental justice considerations during the review process. It introduces a provision that encourages agencies to avoid disproportionate environmental impacts on vulnerable communities, marking the first such provision in a CEQ rule.

Overall, the aim of this new rule is to improve the efficiency of the NEPA review process, while also incorporating environmental justice considerations and fostering greater public engagement in the decision-making process.”

The Biden administration has frequently emphasized environmental justice, or considerations of the impact of environmental policies on vulnerable communities, in its policy proposals, including the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.

“These reforms to federal environmental reviews will deliver better decisions, faster permitting, and more community input and local buy-in,” Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a statement. “This rule is a key element of President Biden’s permitting reform agenda that will help us speed the build-out of our clean energy future while reducing pollution and harms in communities that have been left out and left behind for far too long.

“Today’s proposed regulations represent our Administration’s next step on permitting to help accelerate infrastructure and clean energy deployment while promoting meaningful public input and advancing environmental justice,” added White House clean energy adviser John Podesta.

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