(Washington, D.C. – June 4, 2020) President Trump is once again planning to undermine America’s bedrock environmental protections, and he is doing it while hiding behind the the COVID-19 crisis.
The President is poised to sign an executive order this afternoon that will aim to waive environmental laws that require consideration of the health and environmental harms of major industrial projects like major pipelines. The executive order appears to target the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA – the underpinning of U.S. environmental protections, which was signed into law half a century ago by President Richard Nixon.
“The health burdens of today’s expected executive order would be heavily imposed on people and communities – especially communities of color – that have suffered from industrial pollution for far too long,” said EDF General Counsel Vickie Patton. “These are the actions of a President who, unjustly and unlawfully, disregards the health and safety of the people.”
President Trump is invoking the economic crisis caused by the new coronavirus for today’s expected executive order, but he was already trying to weaken NEPA. The Trump EPA proposed widespread changes to the long-standing implementation of the law in January, and those changes are expected to be finalized in the next few weeks.
NEPA was enacted by Congress in 1970. It requires agencies take a “hard look” at the environmental impacts of their actions by carefully considering consequences of a proposed action, alternatives, and mitigation measures. The Trump administration’s proposed changes would abdicate those responsibilities and instead allow major industrial activities to move forward without adequate consideration or disclosure of harmful impacts.
The proposed changes, and today’s executive order, would also restrict communities’ ability to learn about and address the health and environmental harm of projects in their neighborhoods. That would especially burden communities of color and low-income communities.
Today’s order follows Trump administration attempts to weaken or roll back other major environmental protections, often under the guise of reducing government regulation, including the Clean Car Standards, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the Clean Power Plan, safeguards against soot, and the Censored Science proposal.
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