[Marxism] Trump Rule Would Exclude Climate Change in Infrastructure Planning
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jan 4 10:05:43 MST 2020
NY Times, Jan. 4, 2020
Trump Rule Would Exclude Climate Change in Infrastructure Planning
By Lisa Friedman
WASHINGTON — Federal agencies would no longer have to take climate
change into account when they assess the environmental impacts of
highways, pipelines and other major infrastructure projects, according
to a Trump administration plan that would weaken the nation’s benchmark
The proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy
Act could sharply reduce obstacles to the Keystone XL oil pipeline and
other fossil fuel projects that have been stymied when courts ruled that
the Trump administration did not properly consider climate change when
analyzing the environmental effects of the projects.
According to one government official who has seen the proposed
regulation but was not authorized to speak about it publicly, the
administration will also narrow the range of projects that require
environmental review. That could make it likely that more projects will
sail through the approval process without having to disclose plans to do
things like discharge waste, cut trees or increase air pollution.
The new rule would no longer require agencies to consider the
“cumulative” consequences of new infrastructure. In recent years courts
have interpreted that requirement as a mandate to study the effects of
allowing more planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions into the
atmosphere. It also has meant understanding the impacts of rising sea
levels and other results of climate change on a given project.
The act requires the federal government to prepare detailed analyses of
projects that could have significant environmental effects, including
long-term impacts that courts have said include climate change. Since
1970, when the law was enacted, it has undergone only one major change.
That was in 1983, when the White House Council on Environmental Quality
limited the use of worst-case scenarios in project reviews.
But the Trump administration has been aggressive in its efforts to roll
back environmental regulations. The 50 or so pages of revisions that the
Council on Environmental Quality is expected to make public on Wednesday
would not amend the act itself. Rather, they would revise the rules that
guide the implementation of the law.
Once the proposed rules are filed in the federal register, the public
will have 60 days to comment on them, the official said. A final
regulation is expected before the presidential election in November.
Dan Schneider, spokesman for the Council on Environmental Quality, said
in a statement that the environmental law was overdue for an update.
“The Trump administration is focused on improving the environmental
review and permitting process while ensuring a safe, healthy, and
productive environment for all Americans,” he said.
President Trump’s latest effort to eliminate regulations on industry
appears also to be a play to win over construction trade unions that
have long complained that the National Environmental Policy Act has tied
up energy and transit projects that create jobs.
“The environmental review process designed to improve decision-making
has become increasingly complex and difficult to navigate,” Mr. Trump
said in a presidential message on New Year’s Day to mark the 50th
anniversary of the act.
He criticized the “significant uncertainty and delays that can increase
costs, derail important projects, and threaten jobs for American workers
and labor union members” and said revisions would “benefit our economy
Environmental activists and legal experts said the proposed changes
would weaken critical safeguards for air, water and wildlife. The move,
if it survives the expected court challenges, also could eliminate a
powerful tool that climate change activists have used to stop or slow
Mr. Trump’s encouragement of coal and oil development as part of its
“energy dominance” policy.
In March, a federal judge found that the Obama administration did not
adequately take into account the climate change impact of leasing public
land for oil gas drilling in Wyoming, a ruling that also presented a
threat to Mr. Trump’s plans for fossil fuel development.
One month later, another federal judge dealt a blow to Mr. Trump’s plan
to lift an Obama-era moratorium on coal mining on public lands when he
found the administration did not adequately study the environmental
effects of mining as required by law.
And in 2018, a federal court cited the environmental policy act when it
halted construction on the Keystone pipeline, a project President Trump
has been determined to see become a reality. The court said the Trump
administration had failed to justify reversing the Obama
administration’s ruling that the pipeline would unduly worsen climate
change. The case is still under litigation.
The Trump administration “simply discarded prior factual findings
related to climate change to support its course reversal,” Judge Brian
Morris of the United States District Court for Montana wrote at the time.
Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for
Climate Change Law, said eliminating the need to consider climate change
would lead to more pipelines and other projects that worsen global
emissions. It could also put roads, bridges and other infrastructure at
greater risk, he said, because developers would not be required, for
instance, to analyze whether sea-level rise threatened to eventually
submerge a project.
“It has the potential to distort infrastructure planning by making it
easier to ignore predictable futures that could severely degrade the
projects,” Mr. Gerrard said.
With the proposed changes, said Brett Hartl, government affairs director
for the Center for Biological Diversity, “You’re assuming away massive
amounts of harm and you’re not even going to discuss it.”
But Michael Bridges, president of the Longview-Kelso Building and
Construction Trades Council in Washington State, said he was eager to
see the law revised. He said groups opposed to fossil fuels were using
the environmental policy act to tie up a major coal export terminal in
“We had everything from singing grandmas to people dressed up as
endangered species coming in,” Mr. Bridges said of public hearings on
A state analysis concluded that the terminal would allow 22 million more
tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere over its projected
20-year life span. Mr. Bridges said he wanted strong environmental laws,
but ones that take the local economy into consideration. The coal
terminal, he noted, would replace an old aluminum smelter that shuttered
in 2001, eliminating about 1,500 jobs.
“That was a big hit for us,” he said. “I’m living in these communities,
I’m building these projects, and we want them to be safe. The reason
this is effective for environmental groups is that they’re able to keep
timing it out until the businesses run out of money to fight it or it
doesn’t make sense anymore.”
While Mr. Trump may not be known for deep involvement in policy matters,
one administration official said the president, as a former real estate
developer, was familiar with the National Environmental Policy Act and
has expressed keen interest in the law’s revisions. In one of his
earliest environmental announcements, Mr. Trump signed an executive
order to speed permitting for infrastructure, complaining that building
a highway can take up to 17 years because of what he called burdensome
Mr. Gerrard said the environmental review requirements of New York’s
state-level version of the environmental policy act had helped to defeat
a golf course that Mr. Trump hoped to build in Mount Kisco, N.Y. The
Seven Springs golf course would have abutted Byram Lake, a reservoir for
drinking water. Mr. Gerrard, who represented opponents of the project,
said environmental reviews enabled the community to show that the
drinking water supply could have been endangered. Mr. Trump shelved the
project in 2004, but his public comments indicate the episode still rankles.
In a speech to the National Association of Realtors in May, Mr. Trump
told an appreciative crowd: “I was building a development. I was going
to build some really luxury, beautiful houses.” But, he said: “I found
out that I can’t build on the land. Does that make sense to you?”
More information about the Marxism