Trump Administration Announces Big Changes to Environmental Rules

Thursday morning President Trump announced new rollbacks to decades-old environmental regulations that require impact assessments for large public works projects such as pipelines, major roads, and water infrastructure. The move could have a strong effect on the number of projects approved.

The environmental changes will apply directly to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which the Trump administration believes is unduly decelerating the rate at which large projects are approved.

“Project sponsors and ordinary Americans seeking decisions on permits from the Federal Government can face significant uncertainty and delays that can increase costs, derail important projects, and threaten jobs for American workers and labor union members,” Trump said.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt stated that senior managers are neglecting to read NEPA reports because they are too long, and therefore impractical.

From coverage on CNN:

The proposal would set time limits on environmental assessments and changes what impacts must be considered, two significant moves that could make it easier to approve projects.
Agencies will no longer have to consider “cumulative” effects of new infrastructure under the new rule, which courts have interpreted as a mandate to study effects of emitting more greenhouse gas emissions, according to The New York Times and The Washington Post, which reported the proposals earlier Thursday. That includes the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels.

Activists are concerned about the impact of the administration’s decision, as NEPA has previously played a large role in their ability to obstruct proposals such as the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Forcing federal agencies to ignore environmental threats is a disgraceful abdication of our responsibility to protect the planet for future generations.” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

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