Attorney General Bonta: Biden Administration Proposal is Important First Step to Ensure Meaningful Environmental Review of Federal Projects
OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and New York Attorney General Letitia James led a multistate coalition in support of federal efforts to restore rules for meaningful environmental review of federal projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Biden Administration’s proposal is an important first step toward undoing a Trump-era rule that upended requirements ensuring that federal agencies comprehensively evaluate the impacts of their actions on the environment and public health. However, the changes proposed by the Biden Administration are not enough. In the comments, the coalition expresses their support for the proposal, but urges the Administration to move swiftly to further revise or repeal this unlawful Trump-era rule in its entirety.
“After four long years, our federal government is once again taking action to protect our environment, instead of enabling its destruction,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The Biden Administration’s proposal is an important first step toward ensuring meaningful environmental review of federal projects, but more must be done. I urge the Biden Administration to not only work to undo the damage that has already occurred, but to use this as an opportunity to move the ball forward.”
Enacted in 1970, NEPA is one of the nation’s foremost environmental statutes. Before any federal agency undertakes a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, NEPA requires the agency to consider the environmental impacts of the proposed action, alternatives to the action, and any available measures to mitigate the action’s impacts. A wide range of federal actions, including the approval of significant energy and infrastructure projects and key decisions concerning the management of federal public lands, require compliance with NEPA. Following the Trump Administration’s effort to undermine environmental review of federal projects, a coalition including 21 states, led by California and Washington, filed a lawsuit arguing that the rule violated NEPA and the Administrative Procedure Act.
In the comment letter, the coalition expresses their support for the Biden Administration's efforts to ensure meaningful environmental review of federal projects under NEPA, but argues that the unlawful Trump-era rule must be further revised or repealed in its entirety. Specifically, the coalition urges the Biden Administration to:
- Repeal each of the illegal provisions identified in the coalition's multistate lawsuit;
- Take action to ensure robust and diverse participation in public hearings;
- Expressly require agencies to consider climate change and environmental justice in their NEPA analysis; and
- Ensure that agencies consider whether proposed projects are consistent with state and tribal climate laws, plans, and policies.
Attorneys General Bonta, Ferguson, and James are joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin, as well as Harris County Texas, the City of New York, and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.