Biden Administration’s NEPA Support Sends Strong Signal That Polluters Aren’t Above the Law

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The White House Council on Environmental Quality today announced its final rule as part of a two-step process to restore and strengthen the critical National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This rule reinstates provisions that were gutted by the Trump administration to exempt industry from commonsense environmental safeguards. It also goes further by strengthening requirements to factor climate change risks into planned projects and consider the potential for disproportionate harm to human health or the environment in communities contending with ongoing environmental injustices. In effect for more than 50 years, NEPA is a foundational environmental law that helps ensure communities are meaningfully engaged in decisions about projects being built nearby or that affect them.

Below is a statement by David Watkins, the director of government affairs for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“Polluters have been attacking NEPA since it was signed into law 50 years ago, with the previous administration’s undermining efforts serving as the latest example. By restoring and strengthening key provisions of NEPA, the Biden administration has unequivocally declared that polluting industries will not have the only say in how federal investments and projects are evaluated.

“These new regulations will reverse the worst of the Trump administration’s attacks, implement bipartisan changes mandated by Congress, protect communities’ ability to weigh in on projects that affect their health and surrounding environment, and make NEPA a more effective tool for responding to the climate crisis. As an organization committed to scientific integrity and advancing environmental justice, we welcome these numerous improvements. A robust NEPA process leads to better public health outcomes, a cleaner environment and lower overall costs.”

In addition to Watkins, UCS has the following experts on staff available for interviews on this topic:

  • Dr. Rachel Cleetus, the policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.
  • Michell McIntyre, the policy director and program manager for the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.

If you have any questions or would like to arrange an interview with Watkins or another UCS expert, please contact UCS Climate and Energy Media Manager Ashley Siefert Nunes.

Additional Resources:

  • A blogpost by Watkins, “NEPA, the ‘Magna Carta’ of Federal Environmental Laws, May Be About to Improve.”
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