Trump Loosens Environmental Rules to Fast-Track Infrastructure Permits

July 15, 2020 by Jacob Pederson
The Interstate outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

President Donald Trump announced he is loosening the National Environmental Policy Act in a bid to speed up permitting of federal infrastructure projects ranging from highway upgrades to the construction of oil and natural gas pipelines.

The president announced the final changes to the rule at a Wednesday afternoon event at the UPS Hapeville Airport Hub in Atlanta, making the case that lengthy permit processes have held up major infrastructure projects across the country.

“Today’s action completely modernizes the approval review process under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, cutting the timeline for a major project from up to 20 years or more … hard to believe … to down to two years or less,” the president said.

“You’re not going to devote a lifetime to doing a project that doesn’t get approved,” Trump said.

“Two years won’t be the exception. It will be the rule,” the president continued, adding that the new process will reduce the time for highway construction to get approved or disapproved by 70% or more.

“It’s going to be very quick – yes or no, after study,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to the administration’s actions by saying, “for 50 years, the National Environmental Policy Act has stood as a cornerstone of America’s commitment to environmental stewardship. NEPA’s vital safeguards ensure that every community has a voice in our efforts to build the resilient infrastructure needed to combat the accelerating climate crisis.

“The Trump Administration’s latest anti-science, anti-governance assault on this bedrock protection is another dangerous special interest giveaway that threatens environmental justice and climate sustainability,” she said.

Enacted on Jan. 1, 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act  is perhaps best known for its requirements that all federal agencies in the Executive Branch prepare environmental assessments and environmental impact statements on the potential adverse impacts of proposed projects.

The move to revise the 50-year-old law is one of the biggest deregulatory actions of the Trump administration. It is also just the latest step the White House has taken to loosen environmental protections this summer.

 Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a temporary policy to allow entities to forego reporting their emissions to the agency if monitoring staff were unable to work during COVID-19 related stay at home orders.

The plan raised concerns among Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who were concerned about the open-ended nature of the policy as it was originally announced.

The EPA then set an end date — August 31 — but, at least in the eyes of the committee, continued to leave other issues unresolved. 

While we’re glad the Trump EPA finally responded to our repeated demands to end this reckless policy, the agency either doesn’t know or will not reveal its impacts to either Congress or the American people,” said Committee Chair Frank Pallone, Jr., of New Jersey in a letter to the agency.

The EPA said that in order to be protected under this policy, reporting entities must show the agency proof that they are unable to monitor their pollution due to stay at home orders and other pandemic-related issues. 

The EPA also pointed out that most of the monitoring is done by state agencies, but the committee had concerns with that as well, Pallone said.

“While states are key partners when it comes to enforcing environment and human health protections, it is EPA’s responsibility to make sure that certain states are executing their authorities in accordance with federal law,” the letter said.

A handful of states, including North Dakota, Louisiana, Alaska, and Illinois have not adequately upheld environmental laws because they are “philosophically opposed,” according to an Obama-era report by the EPA.

There are also concerns with cuts to the budgets of state environmental agencies across the country since the recession. Sixteen states cut their pollution control programs by 20% or more, according to a report by the Environmental Integrity Project.

The Committee stated that these funding issues “further underscore the need for robust federal oversight of state enforcement programs.”

Make no mistake: we will never tolerate the COVID-19 crisis being used as cover to weaken environmental and human health protections,” Pallone said. “This policy had no business being put into effect, but fortunately it will be coming to an end soon.”

In The News

Health

Voting

Infrastructure

Biden to Push His Big Infrastructure Plan in GOP Stronghold
Infrastructure
Biden to Push His Big Infrastructure Plan in GOP Stronghold

President Joe Biden will push the case for his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan in the reliably Republican state of Louisiana — directly challenging GOP lawmakers who say that low taxes for corporations and the wealthy will fuel economic growth. Biden is leaning into the stagecraft of... Read More

All Aboard! Biden to Help Amtrak Mark 50 Years on The Rails
Transportation
All Aboard! Biden to Help Amtrak Mark 50 Years on The Rails

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden, once a regular Amtrak rider, is set on Friday to help the nation's passenger rail system celebrate 50 years of service.As a U.S. senator, Biden was a fixture on Amtrak trains between his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and Washington, D.C.,... Read More

School Infrastructure Investments Bridge Paths to Better Future
Education
School Infrastructure Investments Bridge Paths to Better Future
April 29, 2021
by Victoria Turner

Tara Roberts, a single mother of eight, was committed but “in tears” as she opened her first classroom door at Portland Community College, said Mark Mitsui, president of PCC. She now holds a doctorate in nursing, is a health care administrator, all her kids completed post-secondary... Read More

Schumer Presses for Passage of Water Infrastructure Bill
U.S. Senate
Schumer Presses for Passage of Water Infrastructure Bill
April 27, 2021
by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer urged his colleagues to swiftly pass the sweeping water infrastructure bill that came before the chamber Tuesday, calling it a potential starting point for Democrats and Republicans to collaborate on infrastructure, "when and where we can." "This bill is... Read More

Problem Solvers Promote Bipartisan Solutions to America’s Infrastructure Crisis
Infrastructure
Problem Solvers Promote Bipartisan Solutions to America’s Infrastructure Crisis
April 23, 2021
by TWN Staff

A new report prepared by the Problem Solvers Caucus offers an astonishing array of bipartisan recommendations on how to rebuild and responsibly invest in the nation’s woefully out-of-date and sagging infrastructure. Just 20 pages long, the report, which has been endorsed by at least 75% members... Read More

House Delegation Seeks Infrastructure Funds for Everglades Restoration
Environment
House Delegation Seeks Infrastructure Funds for Everglades Restoration
April 19, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - A dozen members of Florida’s congressional delegation, Republicans and Democrats, are urging their colleagues to make Everglades restoration a priority as they consider infrastructure projects to fund this year. In a letter sent to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week, the members... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top