Trump rolled back a 50-year-old law which made history when it was passed in 1970 by allowing communities to have a say in federal infrastructure projects that would affect local resources and ecosystems.
Trump proposed major changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires that major construction plans for pipelines, power plants, bridges, and other infrastructure projects undergo a detailed assessment to consider their impact on the environment before approval. The rollback of NEPA, called an "international treasure" by one former EPA official, will allow the fossil fuel industry to quickly get approval for new projects that could send climate-warming, pollution-causing emissions into surrounding communities, as well as harm wildlife habitats and federally protected lands, with scant oversight. Trump's proposed changes would narrow the scope of NEPA reviews by redefining the term "major federal action" to reduce the number of projects that are required to undergo review. The rollback would also restrict public input by imposing a strict time limit for reviews, allowing just one year for many projects and two years for the largest projects.
"Today, Trump is taking a chainsaw to a bedrock environmental law that has protected Americans for decades," said Rebecca Concepcion Apostol, U.S. program director at Oil Change International. "This is a reckless, dangerous, blatant gift to the fossil fuel industry that will have dire consequences for all of us."
The move is "nothing more than another attempt by the administration to tip the scale in favor of industry," said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). "This law has given people a voice in how their public lands are used, and ensures the environment, from the air we breathe to the water we drink, is taken into account before development projects move forward," Pierno added. "These unprecedented revisions deliberately ignore years of science-driven data, letting the government and industry off the hook for addressing the impacts of climate change on our national parks."
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explained the groundbreaking effect NEPA has had on American communities for decades.
"In short, NEPA protected people by making sure those who were affected by these projects had a voice."
Deputy Director of Western Values Project Jayson O’Neill issued the following statement:
“This is beyond death by a thousand cuts: it is a bloodbath for our wildlife, water, air, and public lands. Time and again the Trump administration has made it clear that the future of America’s outdoor heritage is a mere toy. Gutting America’s bedrock environmental law for corporate special interests is another box checked on their anti-public lands, anti-wildlife, and anti-environment to-do list.”
The environmental law group Earthjustice urged Americans to honor the legacy of those who pushed to pass NEPA into law by speaking out during the federal comment period—which officially begins on Friday.
"This law was built on decades of activism from people who wanted a say in decisions affecting their health, their lives, their communities, and their environment," said Stephen Schima, senior legislative counsel at Earthjustice. "By stacking the deck for corporate polluters and eviscerating public participation, this administration is trashing that legacy. Protect your voice and speak out against this proposal today."
Meantime, the Environmental Protection Agency approved more than 100 pesticide products in 2017 and 2018 that contained ingredients widely considered to be the most dangerous still in use, including some that have been banned in multiple countries or targeted for phaseout in the United States, according to a new analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity.
The analysis, Toxic Hangover: How the EPA Is Approving New Products With Dangerous Pesticides It Committed to Phasing Out, found that the EPA is actively working against its own pledge to incentivize the replacement of older, more dangerous pesticides.
Pesticide products approved by the EPA in 2017 and 2018 include:
- 15 new products containing neurotoxic carbamates or organophosphates, including chlorpyrifos;
- 17 new products containing the endocrine disruptor atrazine;
- 6 new products containing paraquat, which is so lethal that one spoonful can kill an adult;
- 4 new products containing the extremely dangerous airborne fumigants methyl bromide or chloropicrin;
- 91 new restricted-use pesticides, which are so dangerous they can only be applied by a professional;
- 69 new products containing an ingredient the EPA recognizes as a “known” or “likely” carcinogen.
“The EPA is recklessly promoting use of some of the world’s most dangerous pesticides,” said Nathan Donley, the Center scientist who conducted the analysis. “It’s disgusting that rather than do the right thing and phase out the worst of the worst pesticides, the EPA is quietly encouraging their ongoing use.” She added, “When the EPA is approving 94% of applications that come across its desk, including for some of the planet’s most dangerous pesticides, it’s obvious the safety review process is completely broken.”