An environmental group is trying to block one of President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE’s most far-reaching environmental rollbacks from taking effect, arguing the administration has not provided proper access to public documents on a new rule that would limit the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) is seeking an injunction from the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville that would block changes to the bedrock environmental law that are slated to take effect in early March.
The suit is the latest move in SELC’s 17-month battle to get public records from the White House detailing the reasoning behind the January rule, which the administration has said it will not be able to provide until November. The administration is holding commenting sessions before the rule is finalized.
“The irony of all this is that the comment process puts a high value on informed input from the public, but at the same time, the Trump administration is keeping information away from the public,” said Kym Hunter, a senior SELC attorney who filed the request for the preliminary injunction.
“The rules call for openness and transparency, but instead the administration has shut the door and boarded the windows," she added.
NEPA requires agencies to evaluate how pipelines, highways and some oil and gas developments affect the environment and nearby communities.
The law has been a repeated target of President Trump, who has vowed to speed the construction of fossil fuel infrastructure and eliminate barriers to construction projects.
Trump’s changes would limit the breadth of the law, excluding some projects from undergoing NEPA review, like those that receive little federal funding. It also opens the door for more industry involvement in reviewing the environmental impacts of their projects.
The SELC suit marks the first major legal action against the law, though a number of environmental groups have said they are weighing their legal options.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality, which crafted the new NEPA rule, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.