Today, in a necessary first step, the Biden administration’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) finalized Phase One rulemaking for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), restoring some protections removed by the previous administration.
However, many important provisions of the original 1978 regulations that were eliminated in 2020 are not included in today’s rulemaking. In order to restore critical procedural protections afforded by NEPA, the Magna Carta of environmental laws, the Biden administration must prioritize reinstating these protections in its Phase Two rulemaking process this summer.
“Today’s Phase One final rule sets an important baseline in restoring our most important bedrock environmental law,” said Susan Jane Brown, Wildlands Program director at the Western Environmental Law Center. “I am hopeful that in undertaking its Phase Two rulemaking, the Biden administration is as aggressive in restoring NEPA’s essential procedural protections as the previous administration was in dismantling them.”
In July 2020, The Trump administration gutted core components of NEPA, the bedrock environmental law that safeguards communities’ clean air, clean water, and health, as well as imperiled species and wildlands. These changes stifled local communities’ ability to participate in the environmental decision-making process and exempted countless federal actions from consideration of climate impacts on any scale. WELC and its partners at Earthjustice challenged these regulations in court on behalf of 21 conservation, recreation, and environmental justice organizations.