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They're taking aim Biden administration rules adopted earlier this year.
All 50 Republicans in the Senate are backing an effort to undo the restrengthening of environmental permitting regulations the Biden administration announced in April.
The move involves a bill Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, introduced Wednesday that would repeal changes under the Congressional Review Act, which gives lawmakers a path to undo federal regulations with a simple majority vote in both houses. On Thursday, his office announced all Senate Republicans support it.
However, it is unknown whether Republicans will be able to find support from at least one Democrat to pass the measure. A Senate Environment and Public Works Committee aide for Democratic chairman Tom Carper, of Delaware, told Route Fifty last month that Carper would oppose Sullivan’s plan.
The measure is also expected to have a hard time passing the more Democratic House, but the unanimous Republican support in the Senate is an indication Biden’s NEPA changes could be in trouble if Republicans win control of both chambers of Congress.
The controversy comes after the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality in April announced major changes to how the National Environmental Policy Act is enforced, restoring the rules to how they were before the Trump administration revised them in 2020.
State and local officials, Republican politicians and construction industry leaders have long complained the Biden administration’s rules will lead to lengthy reviews.
The Biden administration’s new rules specify that federal agencies need to consider the “indirect” and “cumulative” environmental impacts of projects they are reviewing, not just the “direct” impacts, as had been the case in the 2020 rules. The administration specified that the effects on climate change should be one of the considerations taken into account.
The changes also give federal agencies more flexibility to consider alternatives to proposed projects that would meet the same goals. And they let federal agencies work with local communities to determine the “purpose and need” of a given project, which might differ from what a project’s sponsor (often a private company) has proposed.
And Sullivan has warned that the stronger regulations will slow down projects being created under the bipartisan infrastructure act.
Sullivan, speaking on the Senate floor earlier this month about the infrastructure package, said: “The president said he liked it. The unions really liked it. The building trades—the men and women who build stuff in this country—liked it.”
Kery Murakami is a senior reporter for Route Fifty.
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