Can Donald Trump move fifty years of environmental regulation to get movement on his infrastructure agenda? The White House plans to cut red tape to expedite the projects it sees as critical by exempting them from the complicated approval processes required by a 1970 law signed by Richard Nixon. The plan is to differentiate privately financed projects from pure government-funded ones, but expect courts to get a say in this interpretation:
The White House is moving to exempt projects without significant federal funding from environmental reviews that have been required for 50 years, a major shift that would make it easier to build mines, expand airports and lay pipelines, among other things, according to three people familiar with the proposal.
The individuals spoke on the condition of anonymity because President Trump is expected to unveil the plan Thursday morning.
The proposed changes would narrow the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to assess the impact of a major project before a spade of dirt is turned and to include the public in the process.
Environmental groups, tribal activists and others have used the law to delay or block a slew of infrastructure, mining, logging and drilling projects since it was signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970.
Courts have already used NEPA to slow down infrastructure and energy projects, which means the White House will have a tough sell going in. Of late, NBC notes, courts have used NEPA to enforce climate-change goals, which is one of the main obstacles the Trump administration wants to avoid: