The Trump Administration is calling for a streamlining of the environmental review process as implemented under the National Environmental Policy Act.
In announcing what is being described as the most sweeping proposal in decades to reduce permitting timelines, the President said, “Many of America’s most critical infrastructure projects have been tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal review process.”
Trump added of the current process: “It takes 20 years. It takes 30 years. It takes numbers that nobody would even believe.”
The White House proposal will not only shorten the amount of time in which a project can be reviewed specific to its impact on the environment, it will also reduce the number of federal agencies involved in that reviewing process.
Experts agree that the proposed changes will have the most notable impact on road, highway, and energy projects.
“This is a really, really big proposal,” said Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt in a statement, adding that it will impact “virtually every significant decision made by the federal government that affects the environment.”
The President said he wants to reduce the timeline for process reviews to two years or less, a proposal that has won the support of the Associated General Contractors of America.
In a statement, Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the AGC, said the current review process “long ago stopped being about evaluating the environmental impacts of a proposed project and has become a way for special interest groups to further their agenda by holding needed infrastructure and development projects hostage to countless lawsuits and delays.”
The proposal has met with the opposition of environmental groups. Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, called it “one of the most egregious actions the Trump administration has taken to limit the federal government’s response to climate change yet.”
Christy Goldfuss, senior vice-president at the Center for American Progress, told the HuffPost that the “purpose of rewriting these regulations is to build new pipelines and more fossil fuel infrastructure.”
Goldfuss added: “This is about building towards the past and sticking our head in the sand about the impacts of dirty fossil fuels.”
The administration’s proposed review changes have now been published in the Federal Register and are subject to a 60-day period of public comment.
By Garry Boulard