Building Energy Infrastructure Has Bipartisan Support — But Not If The Permitting Process Guts Climate Protections

January 08, 2020

Right now, national infrastructure projects must carefully consider their eco-implications. But the Trump administration would change the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to make it easier to get those deals built and without considering the “cumulative impact” — code for climate change.

“(R)egulations guiding NEPA processes have not been comprehensively updated in nearly four decades. During this time, securing approval for projects and land management decisions has become hampered by unreasonable costs and long project delays. It is time to modernize NEPA processes,” says a letter from 80 business groups to the Council on Environmental Quality. Such groups include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute.

The letter goes on to say that for every $1 billion spent on infrastructure, it creates 13,000 jobs. America’s infrastructure and natural resources are vital to economic activity and capital investment, it adds. That includes roads, bridges, airports, railways, waterways, and telecommunications networks — not to mention energy and industrial facilities.

While the framing of the proposal to be introduced this week sounds innocuous, critics fear that allowing major infrastructure without a thorough review would mean short-circuiting climate change concerns. Stated differently, an individual natural gas pipeline may have a limited impact on greenhouse gas emissions. But if it is part of an expanded gas and electric network, the picture changes. Without proper review, critics fear that projects could be rushed through.

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