Energy & Environment

Trump proposal would nix climate reviews for new projects: report

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An expected proposal from the Trump administration will relieve agencies from having to consider climate change when they approve projects like pipelines, highways and other big infrastructure projects, according to reporting from The New York Times

Changes to how agencies must conduct environmental impact statements are expected to be unveiled next week and could drastically alter one of America’s bedrock environmental laws: the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

According to the Times, changes proposed by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality would narrow what sort of projects would require an environmental review. NEPA has been a chief target of President Trump, who has vowed to build pipelines and other major energy projects.

Advocates for such projects have often complained that the environmental assessments required under NEPA take too long and delay construction.

Under the council’s proposal, projects that still require an environmental review would no longer have to consider “cumulative” effects of new projects. Courts have largely interpreted that as studying how a project might contribute to climate, say by contributing heat-trapping greenhouse gasses, or how a project might be influenced by effects of climate change like extreme weather.

“It has the potential to distort infrastructure planning by making it easier to ignore predictable futures that could severely degrade the projects,” Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told the Times.

NEPA has been amended just once since it became law 50 years ago, and environmentalists would be sure to issue swift legal challenges to any changes. 

The proposal is expected Wednesday, kicking off a 60-day public comment period before the rule can be finalized.

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