President Donald Trump announced Thursday his plans to dramatically change an environmental law activist groups and their attorneys often use to wrap oil projects in years of bureaucratic red tape.
Trump plans to exempt privately funded projects from undergoing environmental reviews, a significant change that would make building mines and pipelines much easier, The Washington Post reported. Energy producers are cheering the move.
The changes will narrow the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a nearly 50-year-old law requiring agencies to assess the impact a big project could cause to the environment. The administration directed the Daily Caller News Foundation to the White House website, where Trump explained his decision Thursday.
“American is a nation of builders,” the president said at the White House while explaining his decision.
“Yet today it can take more than 10 years to get a permit to build a simple road. … It’s big government at its absolute worst,” he said. It can often take years for a project to move forward while going through the NEPA process.
Instead of taking a decade, the new rule will allow projects to go forward after less than two years, Trump noted.
Environmentalists have used NEPA in recent years to defend against what they believe is Trump’s willingness to hasten oil pipeline construction.
Environmentalist groups, for instance, said the president violated the NEPA in 2017 when he approved the Keystone XL pipeline, which the administration based on a three-year-old analysis conducted when oil prices were more than double what they are now.
NEPA has also stood in the way of Trump’s plans to build a border wall along the southern border. Trump made building a giant border wall stretching from coast to coast part of his campaign message during the presidential election. The president has railed against the law in the past.
The president noted in a press statement on NEPA’s 50th anniversary on Jan. 1 that the law “can increase costs, derail important projects, and threaten jobs for American workers and labor union members.”
Unions and energy producers are calling the president’s move a long-needed change. Terry O’Sullivan, the general president of Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), told WaPo that the rule has impacted union jobs.
“For the hard-working members of LIUNA, who have had their livelihoods put on hold as infrastructure projects become mired in a review process that is needlessly long, complex, and lacks transparency, the administration’s anticipated NEPA reforms are a welcome change,” O’Sullivan told WaPo.
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