January 03, 2020
The Trump administration will soon make it easier for projects like oil pipelines and highways to get federal approval regardless of their environmental risks and effects on climate change, according to the New York Times. The administration is expected to gut the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act by making more projects exempt from the environmental reviews it requires, and by stripping requirements for federal agencies to consider “cumulative” impacts such as contributions to climate change.
By mandating risk evaluation and comment periods, NEPA has become one of the public’s strongest tools for intervening against projects that could taint drinking water, destroy habitats, or release massive amounts of carbon. Yet 95 percent of federal projects are declared exempt, a fraction that would increase if the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which regulates these reviews, moves forward with proposed revisions expected to be released Wednesday, according to the Times.
Those who complain that the law hinders economic development, such as industry groups and trade unions, have found powerful support in President Trump, who just two days ago commemorated NEPA’s 50th anniversary by saying it created “significant uncertainty and delays” that “threaten jobs for American workers.” Environmental reviews typically take four to five years; in a 2017 executive order, Trump directed agencies to complete them in two.