Trump Tweaks Law That Litigation-Happy Enviros Used to Blunt Development

‘Enacted with the best intentions in mind, NEPA has been hijacked by serial litigants to halt construction on critical infrastructure projects…’

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Photo by Mark Klotz (CC)

(Liberty Headlines) President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed the long-overdue update of a landmark environmental law, reducing federal red tape of many major projects, from pipelines to commercial development, to speed the approval process.

“This proposed rule would modernize and clarify the regulations to facilitate more efficient, effective, and timely NEPA reviews by Federal agencies in connection with proposals for agency action,” said a draft of the proposed rule change signed by Mary B. Neumayr, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.

Once the proposal is filed in the federal register, the public will have 60 days to comment on it.

Trump outlined the proposed overhaul of the half-century old National Environmental Policy Act at the White House.

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He called the 50-year-old law “big government at its absolute worst” and said the changes would speed up the process of approving projects that received major federal funding.

The United States cannot compete “if a bureaucratic system holds us back from building what we need,” he said.

GOP members of the Congressional Western Caucus were among those applauding the president for having the boldness to reform the burdensome and overreaching environmental regulations.

“Enacted with the best intentions in mind, NEPA has been hijacked by serial litigants to halt construction on critical infrastructure projects,” said caucus chair Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. “Under the guise of environmental protection, special interest groups have stopped new roads and bridges, transmission lines, pipelines, and even offshore wind projects dead in their tracks.

Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups say the changes will exempt polluters from public scrutiny of their projects.

Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, countered that bringing it into the modern era was a far cry from repealing the law.

“I’ve never questioned the merits behind NEPA and no one is honestly talking about a full repeal, but it is undeniably outdated and being abused to stop economic growth in the misleading rally cry of environmental, climate change protection,” Pyle said in a statement.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, at the White House. / PHOTO: Associated Press

“It needs to be fixed and we have a President bold enough to address its ineffective process,” he continued. “The mere fact that President Trump is attempting to modernize one of the most inefficient, growth-slowing, infrastructure-stopping laws is victory alone.”

President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act into law on Jan. 1, 1970, amid public outrage over the 1969 oil spill off Santa Barbara, California.

That law changed environmental oversight in the country by requiring federal agencies to consider the impact of major building projects on the land and on wildlife.

But much like the land-grabs made by previous administrations that exploited national monument and waterway protection laws, NEPA’s restrictions have been weaponized by left-wing radicals and federal bureaucrats to regulate private property otherwise outside their purview.

Oftentimes, activists use federal grant money at the expense of taxpayers to fund lawsuits for the purposes of fulfilling a political agenda—such as preventing the construction of the much debated border wall to help curb illegal immigration from Mexico.

The regulations disproportionately impact rural—often conservative—areas, and they have significantly hindered U.S. efforts to gain energy independence by preventing discovery of prospective oil fields.

Anne Bradbury, head of an independent oil and gas producers trade group, said among the proposed changes are ones that will hasten the permitting of oil projects, including pipelines, on federal lands.

The Trump administration has pushed hard for pipeline building and drilling projects to move ahead despite local challenges, such as a recent Colorado lawsuit for which environmental activist lawyers used children as the litigants, and a Virginia effort to waylay a major pipeline by claiming it would disrupt a historically Africa

U.S. energy independence has been at the forefront in particular after a strike on Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani presented concerns over retaliation—likely to include additional attacks on tankers at the narrow Gulf of Hormuz, through which much of the global oil supply must pass.

Under Trump, the U.S. has become the world’s largest energy exporter—which he said offers new options in the geopolitical tug-of-war with terrorist-harboring Middle Eastern nations.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press