President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on January 9, 2020 about the proposed rollbacks of the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
President Donald Trump will finalize a withdrawal of the country's landmark environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act, on Wednesday by accelerating approval for federal projects such as pipelines, highways, and power plants.
NEPA was legally signed 50 years ago by President Richard Nixon and urges federal agencies to assess the environmental impact of infrastructure projects before they are approved. The law was also critical for communities to consider how such projects affect climate change and their own health and safety.
With a big win for the energy industry, the changes to the administration will aim to reduce the number of infrastructure projects undergoing a NEPA review, effectively shortening long approval processes that have delayed projects in the past.
According to a White House official, Trump will make the announcement at the UPS Hapeville Airport Hub in Atlanta, Georgia.
The move is the Trump administration's recent move to withdraw a series of environmental regulations to combat accelerating climate change and protect natural habitats from drilling and development. The government has so far withdrawn more than 100 environmental regulations and previously announced it would weaken the NEPA in January.
Environmentalists quickly condemned Trump's announcement, arguing that the decision would restrict public participation in the development of pipelines and other projects in their neighborhood and disproportionately affect poor and minority communities, many of whom live in areas with higher levels of pollution.
"The Trump administration's anti-environmental agenda is a racist agenda. The dismantling of NEPA is an obvious attempt to silence the color communities of the working class who oppose the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in their communities," said Lisa Ramsden, high-ranking climate campaigner from Greenpeace USA.
Gina McCarthy, President and CEO of the Defense Council for Natural Resources, said the government's withdrawal of NEPA is a clear effort to enable industries to more easily pollute communities and limit the ability of communities to contribute to projects Afford.
"People have the right to weigh before a highway project tears up their neighborhood or runs a pipeline through their back yard," McCarthy said in a statement. "Steam rolling their concerns will mean more polluted air, more contaminated water, more health threats and more environmental degradation.
"Our executives should do more than ever to make it easier for people to breathe without doing oil wells, pipeline developers, and other polluters," said McCarthy.
However, Republican officials and the oil and gas industry have long complained about a lengthy and tedious approval process for projects that are often reviewed by environmental groups.
The American Petroleum Institute was one of the industry groups that asked the government last year to modernize and speed up NEPA reviews so that "it strengthened our economy and improved environmental responsibility."
The move to dismantle NEPA is likely to be challenged in court and will also take place before the November elections. Under another government, Congress could possibly end Trump's weakening of the NEPA by a majority vote and the president's signature. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who recently unveiled a $ 2 trillion climate change mitigation plan, has vowed to reverse Trump's environmental setbacks.
"This may be the biggest giveaway for polluters in the past 40 years," said Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biodiversity.
"Removing NEPA is an asset to corruption, an asset to polluters, and an asset to those who benefit from the destruction of our planet," said Hartl. "Everyone else lose."