A major Donald Trump’s assaults on environmental regulations, and has already launched a hundred in less than four years, culminated this Wednesday. The president of the United States has announced a regulatory change, which already advanced in January, by which weakens the transcendental National Environmental Policy Lawl (NEPA) and limita, reduce and in some cases even eliminates public reviews of environmental impact of infrastructure projects to accelerate the construction of, for example, motorways, power plants, or oil and gas pipelines.
The need to reactivate the US economy, hard hit by the coronavirus, has served Trump to justify the need for his action, which he has described as “historic” and “unprecedented” in a act on infrastructure in Atlanta (Georgia), where the expansion of the interstate highway I-75 is being studied. The truth is that the plan was already designed before the pandemic arrived, meeting the demands of various stakeholders such as construction or fossil fuels and causing complaints, and warnings of challenges in court, of environmental and social activists working with poor and minority communities, the elderly victims of environmental racism.
Skip climate change
On Trump’s target is the law signed on January 1, 1970 by Richard Nixon and that some compare with the Magna Carta of environmental law in the US. And what it does, supposedly to end “unnecessary bureaucracies” that “have made lose billions of dollars& rdquor ;, is to alter some of its guidelines. For example cut to a strict maximum term of two years the time allowed for federal agencies to conduct their Environmental impact studies linked to works and projects, assessments that on average currently take four and a half years. Too shorten the deadline that you can do comments and limit the topics that can be addressed in them. It also establishes some categories in which it will not even be required that there be a study.
The element that critics consider most destructive, however, is in another of the changes: exempt to federal agencies from the obligation of consider the impact that the projects under study could have in the climate change. Specifically, it is said that “the effects should not be considered significant if they are remote in time or geographically or the product of a long chain of causes & rdquor ;. And experts like Brett Hartl, from the Center for Biological Diversity, have stated that “this may be the biggest gift to pollutants in the last 40 years”.
Trump’s assault on NEPA at a time when the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on racial minorities has been demonstrated and when the country vibrates in a reflection on the racial and social justice It also explains another of the complaints. Because the minority communities, also victims of environmental racism (with blacks in the US 75% more likely than whites to live near sources of pollution, with increased risk of diabetes, asthma, hypertension and other diseases), they see weakened his voice in the debate of projects that will mark those communities. “Instead of listening to the Administration’s plan Trump intends to silence these guys& rdquor ;, has denounced on public radio NPR Sharon Buccino, one of the lawyers of the Council for the Defense of Natural Resources.
Trump’s announcement came a day after his Democratic rival in the November 3 presidential election, the former vice president Joe Biden, will present the general lines of his plan to combat climate change. The Democrat has promised a two trillion dollar investment to boost the clean energies and rebuild infrastructures. “When Donald Trump thinks about climate change the only word he can say is’cheated& rdquor ;. When I think about it the word I think of is jobs”, dijo.
Biden’s plan includes language suggesting that if he reaches the White House he will reverse Trump’s changes to NEPA. That is a possibility given that a law gives a period of 60 days to Congress and the Executive to undo, with a simple majority in the chambers, alterations in federal regulations. The other option, and it is already announced by groups that defend the environment, is a flood of lawsuits in court.
That judicial fight already underway has managed precisely in recent days to make Trump suffer several defeats and have halted operations in three controversial oil and gas pipeline projects: the Keystone XL, he Dakota Access and Atlantic Coast.