The Senate approved a resolution this afternoon to undo the White House’s new National Environmental Policy Act rules.
The vote was 50-47, with Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joining Republicans in voting “yes.”
The Congressional Review Act resolution, sponsored by Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan, seeks to reverse the Council on Environmental Quality’s move to scrap standards approved during the Trump administration.
“It is quite simple,” Sullivan said today about his proposal. “It would rescind the new Biden NEPA rule — promulgated in April — which will clearly have the impact of slowing down the construction of every infrastructure project in America.”
Sullivan framed the issue as about “the dignity of work.” He tried to blame President Joe Biden — a self-proclaimed union guy — for neglecting the “working men and women” who build bridges and transmission lines across the country.
The CRA allows Congress to reverse a recently finalized rule by simple majority vote. But Sullivan’s measure faces an uphill battle in the House, and, if necessary, Biden would veto it.
Former President Donald Trump’s NEPA rule sought to accelerate the permitting of fossil fuel and renewable infrastructure by reducing the importance of climate change and cumulative impacts in agency reviews.
Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) acknowledged the need to address some permitting challenges but said gutting the new NEPA rule was not the way to do it.
“Blocking these regulations of taking effect is the policy equivalent of burying our heads in the sand,” he said.
Carper said lawmakers have repeatedly made incremental fixes through bipartisan legislation — including last fall’s infrastructure law — like two-year timelines for reviews.
Top Democrats have vowed to pass permitting reform through separate legislation sometime this fall after passage of budget reconciliation legislation in the coming days.