Congress Should Expand the Use of Categorical Exclusions


Congress Should Expand the Use of Categorical Exclusions

October 23, 2023

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This piece originally appeared in The Hill.

Last month, the Biden administration announced that the Department of Transportation would be adopting categorical exclusions for electric vehicle charging projects. The goal, per the Council on Environmental Quality, is to “unlock faster reviews” for charging stations as part of the administration’s efforts to deploy electric vehicle infrastructure.

It’s a commendable move, and one that signals that the Biden administration is more serious about speeding up infrastructure deployment than past Democratic administrations. This should not come as a surprise, as the success of Biden’s marquee policies—the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS Act, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—all hinge on significantly reducing regulatory barriers. Categorical exclusions are a powerful tool in this regard, offering a tool by which infrastructure projects can be “excluded” from review under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). In the absence of categorical exclusions, NEPA requires federal agencies to complete environmental assessments for federal actions that often take years of paperwork—and millions of dollars—to complete.

While its intentions are laudable, the recent policy does not go far enough. If the goal is to afford equal regulatory treatment to all energy infrastructure, categorical exclusions ought to be extended to cover a number of additional energy sources.

Continue reading in The Hill.

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