In its first environmental rollback of the new year, the Trump administration aims to weaken regulations that require federal agencies to consider climate change when assessing the environmental impacts of new infrastructure projects, the New York Times reported Thursday.
The proposed amendments would nullify a mandate from the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that requires government agencies to take the “cumulative” consequences of these projects into account, a government official familiar with the matter told the Times. This includes detailed analyses concerning the long-term effects of letting off additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and what impact rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change could have on a project. These new regulations would also allow more projects to forego this environmental review process entirely as an attempt to streamline the approval process and eliminate hurdles for developers (while also forcing fewer projects to disclose any of their potentially harmful environmental impacts).
The Council on Environmental Quality plans to make 50 odd pages of revisions public on Wednesday, according to the Times. Instead of tackling the policy itself, these amendments would stymie its implementation.
“While the goals of NEPA remain the same as they did 50 years ago, the environmental review process designed to improve decision-making has become increasingly complex and difficult to navigate,” Trump said in a New Year’s Day statement marking the act’s 50th anniversary. He goes on to criticize how project sponsors “face significant uncertainty and delays that can increase costs, derail important projects, and threaten jobs for American workers and labor union members.”
Not coincidentally, a federal court cited an obvious disregard for these “consequential” impacts when it put a stop to the Keystone Pipeline’s construction in 2018. With these proposed amendments, however, such controversial fossil fuel projects would have one less obstacle separating them from government approval.
In short, just another step in the administration’s air-tight plan to ignore the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change away.