Trump looks to overhaul landmark environmental and climate rules

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act at the White House Thursday Jan. 9 2020 in Washington

Donald Trump Announces ‘Common Sense’ Changes to Environmental Reviews 1Evan Vucci AP

Further, the new proposed rules would not analyze the entirety of the environmental impact a project may possess. Or should they also consider what will flow through it?

The administration also wants to remove requirements to examine the "cumulative" impacts of projects, something that would exclude the impact of climate change - even though the proposal does not exclude consideration of greenhouse gas emissions in Nepa analyses, said Neumayr.

While the regulations don't change the law itself, they dramatically change how the law would be implemented by federal agencies.

White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Mary Neumayr told NPR that the average environmental impact statement now takes four and a half years to complete, and the average for highways takes seven years, a delay that "deprives Americans of the benefits of modernized bridges and roads that enable them to get home to their families", she said.

Assessing a major project's impact on climate change is not mandated by NEPA, but over the last few years, federal courts have ruled that the law requires the federal government to consider a project's carbon footprint in decisions related to leasing public lands for drilling or building pipelines. For countless American communities, the law has served as a bulwark against projects and other activities that could harm the environment, human health or quality of life.

So what exactly is Trump proposing to change?

If the agency has more than one timber sale in a watershed, NEPA would normally require the agency to review the cumulative impacts of all of its timber sales on that watershed.

The New York Times, which has documented several environmental rollbacks pushed by the Trump administration, reported that the new rules do not include the word "climate change".

"That's huge", he said. CEQ has invited comment on this issue, noting that if it finalizes its proposed rulemaking, it would review the draft GHG guidance for potential revisions consistent with the regulations.

When asked Thursday morning if the new proposed rules would apply to the Keystone XL pipeline, a senior administration official said, "If it would require NEPA yesterday, it will require NEPA under the current proposal". Congress said at the time that the nation was "fulfilling each generation's responsibility as an environmental trustee for future generations".

But it's not just infrastructure projects that could get impacted.

Changes would reduce timelines for highway projects. "Sometimes it leads to projects being denied". The Trump administration has attempted nearly 100 environmental rollbacks since taking office, according to The New York Times.

"For the public it's the only method for concerned citizens to get involved".

VandenHeuvel said he thinks the new regulations are illegal and hopes they will be challenged in court and thrown out.

Buschele said he's not so sure about that outcome. "I certainly hope not".

"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. The new regulations will be subject to public comment for 60 days, and, ultimately, whether the law gives the administration the authority to place such stringent limits on the scope and nature of environmental reviews will be determined by the courts in litigation.

"EIS's worked reasonably well for many years and allowed projects to be evaluated by all parties, including the public, successfully".

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