Trump Strips Nation's Oldest Environmental Protection Law in Favor of Deregulation

Akin to "altering the Ten Commandments of environmental policy," the revisions made to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act will create fewer restrictions for nearly every major federal construction project in the country.

50 years ago, Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act into law. Written in response to the fallout of two now infamous environmental disasters—Ohio's catastrophically polluted Cuyahoga river catching fire, and a tanker off the coast of Santa Barbara spilling three million gallons of crude oil into the ocean—, the NEPA requires that any major federal project that would have a significant impact on the environment (ie: bridges, highways, pipelines, power plants) would require a review, or environmental impact statement, outlining potential consequences.

Seems pretty reasonable!

These requirements, however, have often been seen as a bureaucratic roadblock by the coal, oil, and natural gas industries. According to them, the regulations set forth by the NEPA represent a burden that only serves to hinder business and make the United States less competitive in the energy market.

Trump's deregulatory actions also have the support of many labor unions who are seeing this as an opportunity to create more jobs.

In revising the NEPA, the Trump administration is ostensibly attempting to fix what many of his supporters consider to be a broken, ineffective administrative system. Representative Rob Bishop of Utah, the ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, said he believed the changes would bring “rationality” to federal bureaucracy:

“There has been nothing more detrimental to the development of transportation, clean water, and energy infrastructure than America’s broken environmental review and permitting process."

The proposed new rules essentially seek to narrow the range of projects that require assessment and impose strict new deadlines on completing them. The revisions also fail to include any mention of climate change which means agencies will not only be off the hook in evaluating their construction's climate impact, it also means they won't need to understand how or whether a road or bridge in a coastal area would be threatened by sea-level rise.

The plus side? Experts seem doubtful that these revisions will hold up in court—of Trump's near 100 proposed environmental rollbacks, only 4 have come to pass thanks to aggressive litigation.

Read more on The New York Times.