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Biden Admin Delays Own Priorities With More Environmental Red Tape

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  • President Joe Biden opened the door Tuesday for additional regulation for projects, including those in the infrastructure bill he signed into law, which critics said would lead to needless delays.
  • “This is really the administration talking out of both sides of its mouth,” Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Diane Katz told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview. “On the one hand, they want to build back better and then, on the other, they adopt new regulations that are going to ensure that we can’t build back anything.”
  • “A more efficient permitting process is critical for building modern infrastructure, including new roads, renewable energy facilities, telecommunications, and other critical forms of infrastructure,” Chamber of Commerce senior vice president of policy Marty Durbin said in a statement.

The White House issued a final rule Tuesday that “restores” environmental regulations on public projects, including infrastructure, cut by the Trump administration.

Federal agencies must consider the “direct,” “indirect” and “cumulative” impact of any proposed action or project under the regulations unveiled Tuesday. Reviews will be required to fully assess climate change impacts of the project.

“Restoring these basic community safeguards will provide regulatory certainty, reduce conflict, and help ensure that projects get built right the first time,” White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Brenda Mallory said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”

The CEQ announcement also calls upon agencies to go even further, saying the regulations were a “floor” for environmental review. But critics said the finalized rule would lead to needless delays of various projects including those proposed under the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Biden signed in November.

“This is really the administration talking out of both sides of its mouth,” Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Diane Katz told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview. “On the one hand, they want to build back better and then, on the other, they adopt new regulations that are going to ensure that we can’t build back anything.”

The regulations were first imposed through the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a broad law that requires federal agencies to review the environmental impacts of projects before approval. The rule proposed Tuesday would reverse changes that former President Donald Trump made to NEPA, which aimed to streamline environmental reviews and accelerate infrastructure projects.

“These reviews can take years and add millions of dollars to the costs of these projects,” Katz told the DCNF. “These are very bad news for anyone, including most Americans, who are hoping for better roads, modern power infrastructure, better internet connection — all the projects that are included in upgrading infrastructure are now going to be held hostage to a 50 year old law.”

“It gives agencies vastly more discretion to either halt projects or to impose costly, unnecessary conditions on these projects,” she added. “But we know the administration is hell-bent on injecting climate change into everything it does whether or not it makes any sense scientifically or economically. So, this is what you end up with — a set of regulations that will actually impede improvements in public safety and public health.”

Katz, who previously testified about NEPA before Congress, has authored multiple papers arguing that the law should be repealed since it has led to arbitrary standards and politicized enforcement.

“Huge own goal here by the Biden admin,” tweeted Alec Stapp, the co-founder of the Institute for Progress and director of technology progress at the Progressive Policy Institute. “This will increase costs & slow down delivery times for projects funded by the infrastructure bill. Baffling that they would sabotage their own signature legislation over an environmental process law that’s been exploited.”

On average, the federal government takes between 4-5 years to complete its review of any given project, according to a Department of Energy study published in 2020. Projects reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration took more than seven years on average, the lengthiest of any agency.

“A more efficient permitting process is critical for building modern infrastructure, including new roads, renewable energy facilities, telecommunications, and other critical forms of infrastructure,” Chamber of Commerce senior vice president of policy Marty Durbin said in a statement. “Layering on more requirements in the Phase 1 rule announced today compounded by another more onerous set of Phase 2 requirements expected later this year will serve only to smother recent progress.”

The American Petroleum Institute and American Gas Association also raised the alarm Tuesday, saying the regulations would lead to higher consumer energy costs.

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