In yet another blow to climate activists and environmentalists, the Trump administration on Thursday unveiled a plan to speed up permitting for important infrastructure projects like oil pipelines, including by dropping consideration of their potential impact on global warming.
President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act into law on January 1, 1970, as public outrage over the 1969 oil spill off Santa Barbara, California, and other pollution of the country's air, water and land spurred creation of the country's major environmental protections. A spokesman for the Council on Environmental Quality, which was established under the White House to carry out the law, said in a statement Thursday that "NEPA regulations have not been comprehensively updated in more than 40 years".
"Communities across the country are already feeling the effects of climate change, but rather than protect them, Trump is pulling out all the stops to silence their voices and further prop up his corporate polluter friends", Brune said, adding the group will "pursue every available avenue to fight back against" the proposal.
The new proposal would place a two-year time limit and a page limit on impact statements and a one-year limit on environmental assessments.
Trump's efforts to cut regulatory red tape have been praised by industry. If a type of project got a "categorical exclusion" from one agency in the past, for example, it would automatically be excluded from review by other agencies, according to the plan.
"The proposed rule seeks to reduce unnecessary paperwork and delays, and to promote better decision-making consistent with NEPA's statutory requirements", said a CEQ fact sheet about the proposed change seen by Reuters News Agency. According to Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Mary B. Neumayr, the average length of time for an environmental review is now four-and-a-half years and statements presently average roughly 600 pages. US federal agencies prepare approximately 170 such assessments per year.
In remarks announcing the new rule, Trump noted that today it takes 10 years to get a permit to build "a simple road".
Trump lamented the slow pace at which construction now takes place due to the government approval process, calling the current system "big government at its absolute worst" and a "dysfunctional bureaucratic system". "This proposal does nothing to take away from the protections for our citizens, for our taxpayers, for our workers or for our environment".
Jennifer Houston, the president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said that cattlemen are subject to NEPA reviews on a regular basis for grazing permits, improving their rangeland, or applying for federal programs.
"Today's destructive actions by Trump, if not blocked by the courts or immediately reversed by the next president, will have reverberations for decades to come", said Rebecca Concepcion Apostol, US programme director at Oil Change International, an environmental group.
The plan will go through a public comment period before being finalised.