Biden Admin Guts Landmark Environmental Law In Order To Fast-Track Green Projects

The Biden administration will use new permitting rules that reduce the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to speed up electric vehicle (EV)-related projects, the White House announced Tuesday.

Language in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which became law in June to avoid federal debt defaults, modified NEPA to allow agencies to rely on environmental decisions made by other agencies for certain projects, known as categorical exclusions, to avoid additional environmental review, according to the bill’s text. The Department of Transportation (DOT) will use the Department of Energy’s (DOE) existing categorical exclusion for EV charging projects to fast-track the completion of charging stations under DOT’s purview, the White House said Tuesday.

DOT’s move to borrow DOE’s categorical exclusion will allow DOT to speed up the timelines of the majority of its charging projects, a large share of which are to be built by first-time grant recipients that have not had to go through the complex ecological permitting process in the past, the White House said. (RELATED: ‘Never-Ending Litigation’: Biden Administration Proposes Road Blocks To Its Own Infrastructure Priorities)

The categorical exclusions for green energy projects will “help accelerate American manufacturing and build a clean energy future,” the White House said. The changes to the permitting process will also facilitate work related to semiconductor chip projects funded by the 2022 CHIPS And Science Act.

Both parties have advocated for the use of categorical exclusions to hasten projects they favor. However, when the Trump administration altered NEPA to reduce red tape, some environmentalist groups slammed the administration for seeking to create a backdoor route to expedite large projects without adequately considering their impacts on human and ecological health.

Biden administration officials are now touting their similar moves as key to facilitating their own energy agenda.

“Positioning the United States as a global leader in the transition to electric vehicles is creating good paying jobs in communities across the country and helping more Americans make the switch,” DOT’s Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt said Tuesday, according to the White House. “That’s why DOT is accelerating progress on President Biden’s clean energy goals by speeding up the installation of EV charging stations in communities across the country.”

The White House, DOE and DOT all did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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