Energy & Environment

Biden administration conservation goals to include ‘different categories’ of lands, official says

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The Biden administration’s conservation goals will include “different categories” of lands on which varying activities may occur, the leader of the White House’s environment council told The Hill. 

White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Brenda Mallory said in a Monday interview the administration will soon put out new information on President Biden’s goal of conserving 30 percent of the country’s lands and waters by 2030. 

Asked if there are any types of activities, like energy development, that wouldn’t be allowed on land that’s considered protected, Mallory said, “you’ll see when we issue this that there are different categories of lands.”

“There are lands that are more working lands and what occurs on those lands may vary,” she said. 

Mallory was confirmed 53-45 last month to lead the CEQ, which advises the president on issues such as environmental justice and conserving oceans, lands and wildlife.

The council also deals with how a bedrock environmental law called the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires environmental analyses ahead of projects such as pipelines, highways and drilling on public lands, is implemented. 

She also said that the administration is aiming to go “as quickly as possible” on its review of the Trump administration’s changes to NEPA. 

“We feel like we need to act as quickly as possible because it’s creating this confusion in the world of permitting,” Mallory said, but didn’t give specifics on the timeline. 

The prior administration’s changes to NEPA’s implementation are among dozens of Trump-era environmental policies Biden has ordered his administration to review. 

The changes include shortening the time period under which the most rigorous reviews are carried out from an average of 4 1/2 years to 2 years, complicating processes for community input, allowing for more industry involvement in the process and getting rid of some reviews entirely.

Asked specifically what her plans were for NEPA, Mallory stressed that the matter is still under review. 

“I’m just trying to understand exactly what the impacts have been and how what the Trump administration did lines up with what are the priorities for this administration on making sure that we’re doing science-based analysis, making sure there’s input for communities and … that we have a process that works well,” she said. 

Asked whether they could go further to strengthen NEPA implementation beyond where it was pre-Trump, Mallory said, “all of that is part of the discussion that’s going on right now.”

Tags 30 by 30 initiative Brenda Mallory CEQ Conservation Council on Environmental Quality Joe Biden

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