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Judge rejects Biden request for delay in Trump environmental rollback case

A federal court has rejected the Biden administration's request for a pause before a case on a Trump administration rollback of a key environmental law wraps up.

The Biden administration wanted to review the rollback before a ruling, but Judge James Jones, of the Western District of Virginia, on Friday sided with environmentalists who argued that they are currently facing harm because of the Trump administration’s policy and didn’t want to delay a decision that could benefit them.

“Adding lengthy additional delay to my decision would not be appropriate, in my judgment,” wrote the judge, who was appointed by former President Clinton. 

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The Biden administration had asked for a 60-day stay on the case, over a rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), to “allow the new administration time to review the challenged agency action.” 

The Biden administration has also requested pauses on litigation over a number of other Trump-era rules, as it may seek to change its position on them.

NEPA requires the government to consider environmental and community concerns before approving pipelines, highways, drilling permits, new factories or any major action on federal lands.

The Trump administration sought to reduce the amount of time that environmental reviews under the law take, from about 4 1/2 years to two years. 

It also removed requirements to consider climate change impacts, complicated the procedure for community input and allowed more industry involvement in environmental reviews. 

It billed its changes as a move to expedite infrastructure permitting, while environmental groups argued that it’s a move to help industry at communities’ expense.