20 states sue to block Biden’s NEPA rule

Source: By Niina H. Farah, E&E News • Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The states, led by Iowa and North Dakota, contend that the regulation will fast-track “favored projects” while stymying others.

Iowa Republican Attorney General Brenna Bird speaks.

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird (R). Charlie Neibergall/AP

Twenty states led by Republican attorneys general are suing to block the White House’s latest rule on how agencies should comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird and North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley are leading the challenge to the second phase of the NEPA implementing regulations that the Council on Environmental Quality finalized last month.

The Biden administration has promoted the rule as a way to speed up permitting for renewable energy and other key infrastructure projects, but red state challengers claim the changes will slow development.

“Unfortunately, the Council has recently embarked on a campaign of imposing substantive, stringent, unworkable regulations with the effect — if not the deliberate goal — of stymying development of certain projects and resources within Plaintiff States and across the country,” the states said in their complaint filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota.

The Phase II CEQ rule replaces many of the implementing changes finalized by the Trump administration in 2020. That regulation marked the first time in decades that the White House had updated guidance for how to comply with the bedrock law, which requires agencies to analyze the environmental impact of major federal actions.

The states said the Biden rule seeks to transform NEPA from a procedural standard into a “substantive set of requirements” that are meant to achieve vague policy goals. The state attorneys general pointed to the elevation of environmental justice and climate change considerations, as well as the fast-tracking of “favored projects” as some examples that raised concerns.

The lawsuit also singles out CEQ’s guidance to give added weight to “Indigenous knowledge” as another form of expertise for agencies to consider. CEQ did not give a reason for why it was placing Indigenous knowledge on equal footing with modeling or scientific expertise, they wrote.

Bird cited a handful of projects that could be affected by the new rule, including the replacement of an aging viaduct, the reconstruction of a highway and the replacement of a bridge over the Mississippi River.

“Iowans are paying the price for Biden’s radical green scheme, again,” said Bird in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “His latest mandate punishes developers for using traditional energy sources and raises bills for families at a time when they could really use the money.

“Whether Iowans can build a bridge or a home should be based on environmental science, not politics or social justice,” she added.

Other states involved in the lawsuit are Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.