It’s Tuesday, January 10, and new guidance from the Biden administration could make it easier to build clean-energy infrastructure.

President Joe Biden’s White House unveiled new guidance last week on how federal agencies should evaluate greenhouse gas emissions from proposed infrastructure projects, including renewable energy systems.

The interim guidelines from the Council for Environmental Quality are intended to provide greater clarity on how climate pollution should factor into assessments carried out under the National Environmental Policy Act, one of the U.S.’s bedrock environmental laws. Enacted in 1970, the act requires federal agencies to consider major infrastructure projects’ impact to land, water, and air before approving them. In 2020, the Trump administration issued a rule that freed agencies from considering climate change in their impact assessments, but the Biden administration restored the climate requirements of the law last year.

For projects like highways, power plants, and transmission lines, the new guidelines say agencies should reduce greenhouse gas emissions “to the greatest extent possible.” But they also instruct agencies to use the “rule of reason” when evaluating projects, suggesting they forgo detailed analysis of greenhouse gas emissions for large-scale renewable energy projects like offshore wind, whose climate pollution is relatively minor and short-term. This could make the permitting process faster for renewables compared to more polluting project proposals like natural gas pipelines, which would warrant more in-depth emissions analyses.

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The guidelines also encourage agencies to engage with communities that would be affected by proposed infrastructure projects and incorporate environmental justice considerations into their climate-related analyses.

Although the new guidelines aren’t as durable as a rule and could be quickly overturned by a future president, experts have hailed them for simplifying the permitting process for renewable energy development. ”The interim guidance will enable clean energy developers to move forward with projects, particularly on federal lands, that not only reduce climate impacts from the power sector, but that also create jobs and add economic benefits for communities in areas where solar projects are sited,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the trade group Solar Energy Industries Association, in a statement.

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