The White House on Tuesday restored environmental regulations on infrastructure construction that the Trump administration struck down in the name of cutting bureaucratic red tape. The Biden administration said reimposing the stringent review process will speed up the construction of infrastructure projects.
The rule change will require federal agencies to assess the "direct," "indirect," and "cumulative" climate and environmental effects of infrastructure projects before approving the projects. Former president Donald Trump in 2020 made certain projects, such as pipelines and highways, exempt from those regulations in an effort to clear up "mountains and mountains of bureaucratic red tape in Washington, D.C."
Chairwoman Brenda Mallory of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, which issued the rule change, said in a statement that the restoration of red tape will actually expedite the construction of infrastructure.
"Restoring these basic community safeguards will provide regulatory certainty, reduce conflict, and help ensure that projects get built right the first time," Mallory said. "Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help projects get built faster, be more resilient, and provide greater benefits to people who live nearby."
When the White House last year proposed reimposing the regulations, though, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed it, saying the rule change would bog down infrastructure projects.
"By rolling back some of the most important updates to our antiquated permitting process, the Biden administration's new proposed [National Environmental Policy Act] rule will only serve to slow down building the infrastructure of the future," Chad Whiteman, the Chamber of Commerce's vice president for environment and regulatory affairs, said in October. "Important projects … are languishing due to continued delays and that must change."
On Monday, the day before the Council on Environmental Quality argued its policy changes would speed up the construction of federal projects, Politico subsidiary E&E News revealed that the agency has failed to complete its own projects on time. The agency was tasked with achieving a number of the Biden administration's climate priorities, including tracking the White House's "climate-related investments to disadvantaged communities" with a scorecard.
The Council on Environmental Quality "has already fallen behind on multiple key goals, including the scorecard, which was supposed to be released two months ago, and the climate and economic screening tool, which was released in February in draft form after a six-month delay," E&E News reported.