Friends of the Earth Celebrates Final Federal Rule Revamping NEPA, Environmental Protections

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Today, the White House Council on Environmental Quality announced its final rule reinstating 2020 rollbacks to the National Environmental Policy Act. The rule will officially restore past gutting of the nation’s bedrock environmental protection law, as well as add climate change and environmental justice as factors that should formally be considered by federal agencies when implementing NEPA review.

CEQ’s announcement is the direct result of a 2020 lawsuit filed filed by a coalition of organizations, including Friends of the Earth, which challenged the Trump Administration’s attacks on NEPA. The litigation has been stayed pending CEQ’s restoration efforts. The 2020 attacks on NEPA attempted to exempt dirty energy projects from basic environmental reviews and silence public input. Today’s rule completes CEQ’s two-phase approach to undoing these unlawful rollbacks.

Hallie Templeton, legal director for Friends of the Earth, issued the following statement:

We commend CEQ for taking long-overdue actions to strengthen and restore NEPA, our nation’s most crucial environmental protection law. This marks a victory in our years-long litigation to reverse the rollbacks and benefits frontline communities who rely on NEPA for a voice in the permitting process and for transparency around our government’s activities. While much more must be done to shore up our nation’s environmental and environmental justice laws, this is a certain step in the right direction for safeguarding people and the planet.

CEQ issued its draft Phase 2 rule in Aug. 2023, the final publication of which completes a 2-phase approach to reinstating and strengthening NEPA. CEQ published the Phase 1 rule in April 2022. Plaintiffs in the litigation are reviewing the rule and determining next steps for their lawsuit over the unlawful 2020 rollbacks.

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