June 19, 2020
President Trump signed an executive order June 4th instructing agencies to waive long-standing environmental laws to speed up federal approval for new mines, highways, pipelines and other projects given the current economic “emergency” according to a June 4, 2020 Washington Post report.
Declaring an economic emergency lets the president invoke a section of federal law allowing “action with significant environmental impact” without observing normal requirements imposed by laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. These laws require agencies to solicit public input on proposed projects and analyze in detail how federal decisions could harm the environment.
In the order, the president said setting aside these requirements would help the nation recover from the economic losses it has suffered since the outbreak of the coronavirus: “Unnecessary regulatory delays will deny our citizens opportunities for jobs and economic security, keeping millions of Americans out of work and hindering our economic recovery from the national emergency.”
It is unclear how the directive will affect individual projects, especially since developers are often wary of legal challenges they could face from environmental or public interest groups. Jason Bordoff, founding director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, said in an email that “companies would be reluctant to rely on such an executive order,” knowing they would later have to prove that they were operating in an emergency.
Trump’s desire to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act predates the eruption of the pandemic in the United States. In early January, the president proposed fundamental changes to 50-year-old regulations to narrow its scope.
Those changes would mean that communities would have less control over some projects built in their neighborhoods. Environmental groups, tribal activists and others have used the law to delay or block infrastructure, mining, logging and drilling projects since it was signed by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970.
What this means to you
President Trump signed an emergency executive order June 4th instructing agencies to waive long-standing environmental laws to speed up federal approval for new mines, highways, pipelines and other projects.
MIRATECH can help
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