San Francisco, CA
Today, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) finalized phase 1 of its multi-step effort to reverse Trump administration actions that eviscerated core protections under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA is the bedrock law that requires federal agencies to invite public participation and take health and environmental concerns into account when making environmentally consequential decisions, including the permitting of critical infrastructure projects. The new rule restores the definition of cumulative and indirect impacts, removes the requirement to base the purpose and need of an action on the goals of the applicant, and reinstates the ability of federal agencies to develop more protective regulations.
In response, Earthjustice President Abigail Dillen issued the following statement:
“The Biden administration is taking key steps to reverse the damage of the Trump administration and restore essential environmental protections under NEPA, our core framework for transparent decision-making informed by the best science and the lived experience of impacted people and communities.
“By reinstating the long-standing definitions of direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts, the Council for Environmental Quality is making federal agencies responsible for addressing the reality of environmental injustice, ecosystem collapse, and our climate emergency.
“Good NEPA process requires robust community engagement, rigorous analysis, and public disclosure, which leads to government accountability, better projects with more community buy-in, and less litigation. As we transition to a clean energy future, following NEPA can and must help us to advance equitable solutions, including resilient and innovative new infrastructure.
“While this phase 1 rule represents an essential step forward, the Biden administration cannot stop here. The upcoming phase 2 rulemaking process is an opportunity for the administration to engage directly with those most impacted by polluting industries and reflect their voices in a final rule that delivers on the commitments this administration has made to environmental justice communities. We will continue working with the Biden administration throughout the upcoming phase 2 rulemaking process to ensure we tap NEPA’s full potential to address the unprecedented environmental challenges we face now.”