Trump rewrites long-standing environmental law that sidesteps climate change

A deep dive into President TrumpDonald John TrumpAmash confirms he will not seek re-election of Chicago’s mayor to the White House press secretary: ‘Hello, Karen. Look at Your Mouth ‘Pentagon Reflection Plan to Ban Confederate Flag Without Mentioning It by Name: MORE ReportThe reversal of a fundamental environmental law shows the extent to which the administration is dramatically reducing the scope of government reviews for major projects by neglecting consideration of climate change and other impacts.

Trump announced Wednesday a new drafting of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which for 50 years has required careful consideration of environmental and community impacts before approving new pipelines, roads, factories, or drilling permits on federal land.

The new rule no longer takes into account the cumulative, indirect or direct impacts that a project could have on the environment, leaving aside both an evaluation of the project’s effects on climate change and the many ways in which the environment is found. or nearby communities, many of which are communities of color – could be disrupted.

The White House Environmental Quality Council wrote in the new rule that “the effects should generally not be considered if they are remote in time, geographically remote, or the product of a long causal chain.”

The “remote in time” language could further prohibit consideration of climate change during environmental reviews.

That doesn’t sit well with environmentalists.

Sally Hardin, acting director of the Energy and Environment War Room at the Center for American Progress, explained the new rule this way: “When you evaluate a pipe, you just look at the pipe. But the oil transmitted through the pipeline that will be transported and burned and elsewhere, you don’t have to consider emissions from that. “

“That is really bad for climate change planning and for communities that are already overburdened by pollution. Not considering what you are adding to an environmental justice community that already has three polluting facilities is terrible, “he added, referring to communities facing environmental inequalities.

In a statement to The Hill, the White House council argued that climate change could be taken into account during certain evaluations.

“Trends associated with a changing climate, in appropriate cases, would be characterized in the baseline analysis of the affected environment,” the council said in a statement.

But critics say the new rule will allow the administration, which has a history of marginalizing climate science, to ignore a host of environmental implications of its decisions.

“When you think of a highway, there are many impacts beyond just pouring concrete,” said Kym Hunter, lead attorney for the Center for Environmental Law in the South, which has helped numerous cities challenge polluting projects.

The Trump administration argues that federal agencies spend too much time trying to assess and categorize different types of project impacts, and should instead assess them comprehensively.

Under the previous rule, the government would have to consider how road runoff could affect a nearby wetland, how emissions from cars that would drive on that road would contribute not only to climate change but to air quality in the immediate area, as well as how the change in traffic patterns could affect the city that crosses the road.

“Agencies can argue that removing these categories means they don’t have to look at them,” Hunter said.

The revised rule would also make it harder for communities to challenge new development and may require people to post a bond before filing a lawsuit, a provision experts say would likely be illegal if applied.

Poor neighborhoods and communities of color are disproportionately chosen as the project sites for polluting industries. Eliminating the general consideration of project impacts is expected to be particularly damaging to them.

The rule now requires communities challenging a project to submit detailed technical comments, something that may require hiring legal or scientific consultants.

It would also prohibit communities from launching a legal challenge if they had not raised concerns during the NEPA process.

And in a move Hunter called “incredibly illegal,” even those who can sue may have to bond before their case can continue.

“Agencies can structure their procedures to include an appropriate bond or other security requirement,” says the rule.

The rule builds on a proposal from the White House council in January that companies that prepare NEPA documents will have to disclose their conflicts of interest.

The final rule says that it is “appropriate to allow applicants to prepare documents for the sake of efficiency.”

Critics are alarmed that companies, which can earn millions of dollars from a project, will now be able to play a role in preparing an analysis of the environmental impacts of their project.

The original NEPA rule prevented such participation, Hardin said.

“If they had a conflict, they couldn’t do the review because, wow, they might want to avoid the review,” he said, describing the new approach as “a little transparent but still terrible.”

The White House council told The Hill that “agencies will continue to be required to independently evaluate and revise, as appropriate, a preliminary environmental document and to take responsibility for the content of any of the documents.”

Even with those guarantees, environmental groups promise to sue for the new rule.

“It is very concerning for the climate, very worrying for the public for the communities, and we have important concerts about its legality,” said Hardin.