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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen on Friday released a letter demanding that the Biden administration reverse its recent decision to extend by two years a deadline for federal agencies to implement Trump-era reforms of a bedrock environmental law.
Knudsen in a letter addressed to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) urged it to withdraw an interim rule it passed last month that pushed back to 2023 a September deadline for agencies to come up with procedures to implement Trump's overhaul of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
"I write to demand that you withdraw your unlawful, reckless, and job-killing 'delay' of the landmark 2020 NEPA modernization and reform rules," Knudsen wrote in the letter.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump's CEQ last year changed how NEPA is implemented as part of the former president's broader campaign to fast-track infrastructure projects such as oil pipelines and road expansions.
NEPA requires environmental review prior to authorizing actions such as the permitting of infrastructure projects. Its revised version exempts a large class of projects from environmental review and eliminates the requirement to analyze a project's indirect and cumulative effects, among other things.
Knudsen, a Republican, argues in his letter that the two-year extension Biden's CEQ adopted on June 29 violates Administrative Procedure Act (APA) requirements to take comments from the public before issuing a substantive administrative rule.
Biden's CEQ said in its interim final rule that it was exempt from undertaking such a so-called notice-and-comment period before issuing the rule because of its procedural nature and lack of substantive effects.
Knudsen also claims the CEQ's June rule is arbitrary and capricious under the APA because it fails to explain what benefits stem from postponing the date for agencies to fully apply the NEPA reforms by crafting revised internal procedures.
Biden's CEQ has said that its June rule gives it time to "review and potentially revise the 2020 NEPA" rules.
Jonathan Brightbill, chair of environmental litigation at Winston & Strawn, said Knudsen's letter showed the attorney general "putting himself in the position to be able to take legal action if CEQ ultimately undertakes an action that injures Montana."
CEQ coordinates White House energy and environmental policies across federal agencies.