Groups that support construction contractors have all been in favor of the historic $1 trillion infrastructure law initiated by President Joe Biden that eventually passed Congress in bipartisan votes.
But that support has turned to frustration as the Biden administration institutes a series of rules that the groups say will undermine the goal of the program to upgrade beleaguered U.S. roads, bridges, utilities and other infrastructure.
Since Biden’s signature November 15 to enact the law, his administration has:
- Mandated labor agreements for large federal construction projects.
- Required steel, iron and construction materials used in infrastructure projects be made in the U.S.
- Reinstated rules that could lead to lengthy environmental reviews on projects.
The measures will cause delays for much-needed infrastructure improvements, as well as drive up costs and discourage contractors from bidding, the groups say.
Biden and supporters argue the rules will help workers, boost American manufacturing and protect the environment.
Here’s a rundown of the issues and where things stand:
Stricter environmental rules restored
THE RULE: On April 19, the White Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced it was restoring parts of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that the Trump administration had revoked. The changes made in 2020 were partly designed to speed up the regulatory process for infrastructure projects and clear up confusion concerning the rules’ enforcement. The restored NEPA regulations require federal agencies to evaluate all environmental impacts of a project – direct, indirect and cumulative – including “fully evaluating climate change impacts and assessing the consequences of releasing additional pollution in communities that are already overburdened by polluted air or dirty water.”
FOR: “Restoring these basic community safeguards will provide regulatory certainty, reduce conflict and help ensure that projects get built right the first time,” said CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory. “Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help projects get built faster, be more resilient and provide greater benefits to people who live nearby.”
AGAINST: NEPA environmental reviews can take as long as seven years, while the bipartisan infrastructure law sets a goal of completing reviews within two years, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. The group adds that implementing NEPA in the past has proved confusing and led to numerous, lengthy court battles over projects.
“Reinstating outdated regulations that require project sponsors to guess about the indirect impacts of transportation improvements only guarantees that those projects will take too long to deliver,” says ARTBA CEO David Bauer.
WHAT’S NEXT?: The newly restored rules are set to take effect May 20. The White House council is also working on a second phase of NEPA rulemaking. ARTBA says it will continue to fight changes to the NEPA rules in federal court.
Made in America is the law