Dems launch investigation into Trump administration's dealings with Saudi Arabia
Trump aims to speed environmental reviews in infrastructure plan
The Trump administration is asking Congress to cut "duplicative" environmental review procedures as part of the president's massive infrastructure plan.
The 55-page plan released Monday morning seeks to speed reviews and cut "inefficiencies," including through what officials are calling a "one agency, one decision" paradigm, for the review process.
It answers complaints from President Trump and Republicans that environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) create unnecessary delays and hurdles that are holding back infrastructure projects.
The administration's plan says the proposed changes would "protect the environment while at the same time delivering projects in a less costly and more time effective manner."
It includes changes like setting a 21-month deadline for most reviews, designating a lead federal agency to be in charge of each review and requiring other agencies to sign off on the decisions, reducing their ability to object later.
"Requiring the lead Federal agency under NEPA to develop a single Federal environmental review document to be utilized by all agencies, and a single [record of decision] to be signed by the lead Federal agency and all cooperating agencies, would reduce duplication and create a more efficient, timely review process," the administration wrote.
The plan would also let states take over environmental review responsibilities for more projects, limit federal agencies' ability to recommend alternatives to the projects that are applied for and limit the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) unique power to object to projects on air pollution grounds.
"We are not touching any of the fundamental requirements of any of the core infrastructure acts," a senior administration official told reporters this weekend, referring to laws like NEPA and ESA.
"We're not saying you can have a bigger impact on endangered species, or the water can be dirty, or the air can be dirty, or anything like that. So the core acts stay the same. We're talking about the process that's used to do the analysis around the environmental impacts."
Nonetheless, environmentalists were quick to denounce Trump's plan.
"America is long, long overdue for smart, forward-thinking infrastructure investments, but the administration's proposal badly misses the mark and reads more like a strategy to gut clean air, water, and wildlife protections, while silencing local voices, than a serious effort to rebuild America's infrastructure," said Collin O'Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation.
"This is a climate-wrecking fossil fuel infrastructure plan that fast-tracks pipelines at the expense of frontline communities and working people. This flies in the face of everything we know about climate science," said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org.
Mallory Shelbourne contributed to this story.