Roundtable Weekly
Biden Administration Issues Rules Affecting Environmental Approval and Sourcing of Major Infrastructure Projects
April 22, 2022
Infrastructure highway construction San Diego

The Biden administration announced this week the restoration of strict environmental reviews for major infrastructure projects. Additionally, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued new guidance to help federal agencies implement the “Build America, Buy America” sourcing provisions passed as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) last November. (PoliticoPro and Council on Environmental Quality, April 19)

Project Permitting & Climate Change

  • The environmental guidelines will revive how federal agencies authorize and issue permits for infrastructure construction projects. The regulations reaffirm that Federal agencies must evaluate all environmental impacts – including those associated with climate change – during reviews of proposed projects like bridges, mass transit and energy generation. (Wall Street Journal, April 19)

  • A second, broader proposal with additional changes is expected later this year. It is uncertain how the regulatory review guidance will affect projects authorized in the Roundtable-supported $1 trillion IIJA. (White House Council on Environmental Quality, April 19, 2022 and Roundtable Weekly, Nov. 12, 2021)

  • The restored regulations, which take effect on May 20, will also allow federal agencies to adopt environmental review standards that are more stringent than what is outlined in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NEPA environmental review rules were in effect since 1970 before the Trump administration scaled them back in 2020. (Reuters, July 15, 2020)

  • Under Trump’s revisions, full environmental-impact statements were required to be completed within two years, while less comprehensive reviews had a one-year deadline. (Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2020)

Infrastructure Materials Sourced in America

Pouring Steel
  • The OMB’s preliminary guidance issued this week instructs federal agencies how to implement new “Buy America” requirements applicable to federally funded infrastructure projects. (Associated Press, April 18)

  • The IIJA requirement provision mandates that all federal agencies must ensure that a “Buy America” requirement applies to all infrastructure projects that receive federal financial assistance, whether or not funded through IIJA. (National Law Review Q&A, April 20)

  • The new requirements, which take effect on May 14, require material purchased for infrastructure projects be produced in the U.S, with waivers included in case there are either not enough U.S. producers or domestic material costs prove excessive. (White House blog, April 20)

The Biden administration’s effort to increase domestic manufacturing and ease supply chain pressures from overseas sourcing comes as inflation has reached a 40-year high ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 12)

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