Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 1, 2023

Contact:

Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121, bhartl@biologicaldiversity.org

Legal Petition Seeks Environmental Review Improvements Promised by Biden

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Council on Environmental Quality today to strengthen the regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act to better tackle the climate crisis, meaningfully address environmental justice and push agencies to make better, more environmentally protective decisions.

Despite promises made during the presidential campaign and at the beginning of the Biden administration, the Council on Environmental Quality has only reversed a few of the worst Trump-era changes to the regulations implementing NEPA.

“It’s time to fix an environmental review process that still favors polluters, allows the climate crisis to worsen and puts frontline communities last,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. “The Trump administration did enormous damage, and Biden officials need to repair that and revitalize the National Environmental Policy Act to address the enormous challenges we face. This petition provides a roadmap to do so.”

The Biden administration’s proposed “Phase II” regulations, which were designed to undo the remaining Trump rollbacks and better address environmental justice, are still many months away from being released, if they come out at all.

Today’s petition seeks to require all federal agencies to evaluate environmental justice and address the climate crisis at all stages of agency decision making. The proposal would also discourage agencies from worsening harm to the environment and push them to adopt environmentally protective courses of action.

In early 2021 the Biden administration proposed to strengthen the NEPA regulations in two phases: by first undoing a few of the worst changes to the regulations that the previous administration enacted, and then by developing a comprehensive proposal to fully address environmental justice. This Phase II regulation has been repeatedly delayed, and now might be released in mid-2023.

In 2022’s waning months, the Biden administration strongly supported Sen. Joe Manchin’s so-called Building American Energy Security Act of 2022, which would have weakened virtually all aspects of the NEPA environmental review process. The bill also would have approved the Mountain Valley Pipeline despite impacts to frontline communities, the climate and endangered species.

“President Biden can’t have it both ways. Either you support environmental justice and efforts to strengthen NEPA, or you support Joe Manchin,” said Hartl. “We hope he comes back to his original promise to truly strengthen our environmental laws so that no more communities have to suffer at the hands of polluters.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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