Proposal Aims to Accelerate Environmental Reviews
The Trump administration has recently proposed a rule, modernizing and accelerating how environmental reviews are conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act.
As stated by the White House, the proposed rule allows for infrastructure projects to be “built in a timely, efficient, and affordable manner” and will also “help bring new infrastructure projects to our communities that benefit American workers, farmers and families.”
About the Rule
According to reports, the NEPA regulations haven’t been updated in over 40 years and the last time an amendment was made was in 1986 by the Council on Environmental Quality.
In reducing what the White House describes as unnecessary burdens and delays, the administration is now proposing that future time limits for completing environmental impact statements are limited to two years and that environmental assessments are to be completed within one year.
However, the proposed changes exempt projects that aren’t primarily federally funded.
Along with the adjusted timelines, the proposal also specifies page limits for these forms of documentation, and promotes information sharing through technology. The rule also states that agencies would be allowed to establish procedures for adopting another agency’s determinations.
Opposition follows the proposal from environmental advocates who express concern over the possibility that more projects will get pushed through that affect the climate crisis.
“While our world is burning, President Trump is adding fuel to the fire by taking away our right to be informed and to protect ourselves from irreparable harm,” Gina McCarthy, Chief Executive of the advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council.
The administration believes that the rule revisions, in addition to better defining environmental effects and other key terms, will help improve collaborative communication between state, local and tribal governments.
Already, oil and gas groups—as well as some labor organizations—are welcoming the proposed changes to NEPA, with one official claiming that the reform was a critical step in meeting the growing demands for cleaner energy and infrastructure projects.
White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Mary Neumayr adds for clarity that the changes will only reform the government’s review of projects and would not affect or change environmental law or regulations already in place.
"Nothing in the proposal would eliminate the protections that Congress has enacted to safeguard our environment and the American people," Neumayr said in the press conference. "Today’s proposal has undergone extensive interagency review and the Council on Environmental Quality has carefully considered thousands of public comments."
There will be a 60-day comment period prior to finalizing the rule.
Other Trump-Advised Environmental Rollbacks
Starting back in 2017, in order to comply with orders from President Donald J. Trump’s administration that the Environmental Protection Agency reduce its budget by 31%, a memo was issued proposing that two programs be eliminated, saving the budget $16.6 million.
One of the programs slated for termination is the Lead Risk Reduction Program, which requires professional remodelers to undergo safe-practice training before stripping lead paint. The program was set up under the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule in 2010.
As a result of cutting the program, $2.6 million would be saved, while the other $14 million was intended to be taken from grants to state and tribal programs that also address lead-based paint.
That summer, Trump issued an executive order on Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure, which intended to streamline the environmental review process and effectively overturns flood regulations put in place by the previous administration.
In January 2018, the administration submitted a proposal, cutting safety regulations, repealing and revising some provisions of the Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems rule as a response to an earlier call to “reduce undue burden on industry.”
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said at the time that the proposed regulation rollbacks would remove unnecessary burdens on producers while “maintaining or advancing the level of safety and environmental protection.”
Most recently, last month the Trump administration announced the roll back of nearly 95 environmental rules. As part of the rollback, the EPA announced that it would be reducing the number of waterways receiving federal protection under the Clean Water Act.
The rule is slated to be replaced by Trump’s “Navigable Waters Protection Rule.” Both the EPA and the U.S. Army were slated to host a public webcast for the public to help explain the rule’s key elements yesterday (Feb. 13).