President Donald Trump signed an executive order that will allow federal agencies to waive environmental laws to speed up federal approval for infrastructure projects.
The order directs agencies to use all their emergency authorities to facilitate the economic recovery by taking all “reasonable measures to speed infrastructure investments” and to take other actions that will strengthen the U.S. economy.
That includes bypassing environmental requirements from the nation’s cornerstone laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.
“Antiquated regulations and bureaucratic practices have hindered American infrastructure investments, kept America’s building trades workers from working, and prevented our citizens from developing and enjoying the benefits of world-class infrastructure,” Trump said. “The need for continued progress in this streamlining effort is all the more acute now, due to the ongoing economic crisis. 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.”
Environmental and public health organizations said the decision will weaken the nation’s environmental laws and negatively affect human health.
“President Trump has used the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrations on racial injustice to issue an improper Executive Order that weakens the National Environmental Protection Act, our nation’s cornerstone environmental law,” said Howard A. Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.
“Weakening NEPA under the guise of COVID-19 crisis relief will sadly result in more public health harms and adverse environmental impacts that affect us all. Weakening NEPA’s public participation requirements is an attempt to stifle and further ignore the public while people are demonstrating for change. The courts and Congress should not allow President Trump’s misguided weakening of NEPA to stand.”
The executive order is part of a string of environmental rollbacks the Trump administration has implemented since the beginning of the COVID-19 public health crisis, including relaxing enforcement of environmental laws and allowing more companies to skip reporting their toxic chemicals.