President Biden has reintroduced stringent environmental assessment rules for any large-scale project, including pipelines and oil wells.
Per an Associated Press report, this week saw the approval of a new rule that will enable the restoration of key provisions from the National Environmental Policy Act, aiming to provide safeguards for the environment and communities that stand to be affected directly by large infrastructure projects.
“Restoring these basic community safeguards will provide regulatory certainty, reduce conflict and help ensure that projects get built right the first time,” said the chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Brenda Mallory. “Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help projects get built faster, be more resilient and provide greater benefits to people who live nearby.”
At the same time, the restored regulations, which the Trump administration had relaxed to stimulate growth in oil and gas, will likely be seen as yet another obstacle for the oil industry to expand its business and boost production. New pipelines, specifically, are essential not just for local supply but for exports of natural gas, too, as industry vet and analyst David Blackmon recently noted.
Blackmon said that while the U.S. has committed to increasing the volumes of LNG it exports to Europe substantially, producers need more pipelines to bring the gas to the liquefaction trains.
There is already substantial environmentalist and local community opposition to pipelines in the U.S. and the new regulations will only reinforce it, problematizing the expansion of the pipeline network.
“NEPA plays a critical role in keeping our communities and our environment healthy and safe, and Donald Trump’s attempts to weaken NEPA were clearly nothing more than a handout to corporate polluters,” said the national director of policy advocacy and legal affairs at the Sierra Club, Leslie Fields, as quoted by the AP.