How Trump's Environmental Policy Rollback Affects The Northwest

James Marshall
January 12, 2020

The U.S. president billed his proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act as a long-overdue effort to shorten and streamline a bureaucratic approval process emblematic of big government, while critics denounced it as written proof of how much contempt he holds for climate change.

"For half a century, the National Environmental Policy Act has forced our leaders to consider how their policies impacts the health of our communities".

For projects requiring detailed environmental impact assessments, the rule would limit the review period to two years and the length of the report.

It also allows the public, activists and environmental groups to remain knowledgeable throughout the review process.

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.

The proposal would also put one federal agency in charge of overseeing the review process, instead of giving multiple agencies oversight of the process and set a two-year deadline for environmental impact studies to be completed and a one-year deadline for less rigorous environmental assessments. "Streamlining NEPA will remove bureaucratic barriers that have hindered the types of infrastructure for the United States to deliver energy in a safe and environmentally protective way".

The plan, prepared by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, would help the Trump administration push through large energy products, like the Keystone XL oil pipeline, that had been tied up over concerns about their effect on the climate.

In 1998, the Baykeeper was able to use NEPA provisions to oppose the Highway 98 construction plan because of the potential it would pollute Mobile's public drinking water.

Approval processes that typically can take years or even decades would be shortened by 70 per cent, the president claimed.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio.

"Essentially it would go straight through the only maritime forest left on the northern Gulf Coast", said Callaway.

She noted that the new rules would still ensure "agencies analyze and consider environmental impacts and reasonable alternatives to mitigate those impacts". Business and fossil fuel industries are praising the proposal, while environmental groups oppose it and promise a legal challenge.

Environmental groups are expected challenge the final proposal. The Trump administration is responding to that complaint by revising the rules the govern how the law is implemented.

The new regulations would also exempt confined animal feeding operations that have federal loans or loan guarantees, Buschele said, and they would introduce a bond requirement for anyone trying to get the court to halt a federal action. The Federal government will still perform all environmental reviews as the law requires, just now with greater efficiency.

Numerous changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act, a landmark measure that touches almost every significant construction project in the country, have been long sought by the oil and gas industry, whose members applauded the move and called it long overdue.

"It's important to note that the NEPA process is not being eliminated, but instead the proposal is to update an antiquated regulatory system which will help industry meet the growing demand for cleaner energy and will act to unlock job-creating projects now stuck in an outdated process", Kara Moriarty, president of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association said in a statement to Channel 2.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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