Houston Chronicle

WASHINGTON — Environmental reviews for new pipelines, highways and other infrastructure projects would be reduced under a proposal released by the Trump administration Thursday, including the end of a requirement that federal regulators consider the implications for climate change.

Trump cuts environmental review for infrastructure, pipelines- oil and gas 360

Source: Houston Chronicle

The move to overhaul the National Environmental Policy Act is the latest in a series of regulatory maneuvers to try and reduce government oversight over industry, in line with President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to speed up the construction and repair of aging U.S. bridges, roads and airports.

Speaking at the White House Thursday, Trump said infrastructure construction was “tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process.”

“We’re going to have very strong regulation, but it’s going to go very quickly.”

The proposed changes by the Commission on Environmental Quality mark a stark shift to decades of federal policy requiring regulators to consider the environmental impacts of their decision making, not just what is most expedient or necessary.

Federal agencies would be limited to two years to conduct environmental impact statements. In addition to the shift on climate change, federal agencies would also allow companies to prepare their own consultants to conduct environmental analysis. Also, regulators would be given sharper parameters on considering the pollution caused by a project.

“While our world is burning, President Trump is adding fuel to the fire by taking away our right to be informed and to protect ourselves from irreparable harm,” said Gina McCarthy, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “For the past 50 years, NEPA has been an essential part of the public process, providing critical oversight that the federal government relies on to fully understand the potential implications of projects that can harm people’s health and the environment.”

But since NEPA’s creation in 1970, critics argue, the lack of updates has resulted in a process so burdensome reviews can drag out to a decade or more, turning away developers.

The oil and gas industry has been particularly vocal on the need for reform, as it seeks to expand the nation’s pipeline network to manage the huge growth in oil and natural gas born by the hydraulic fracturing boom.

“Our country is at a pivotal time for American energy; all phases of energy production need efficient, effective and streamlined processes to ensure that we can meet our growing energy demands,” said American Exploration & Production Council  CEO Anne Bradbury. “The Administration’s modernization of NEPA removes bureaucratic barriers that were stifling construction of key infrastructure projects needed for U.S. producers to deliver energy in a safe and environmentally protective way.”

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