President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he is reversing a basic environmental law from the Nixon era that he believes will stifle infrastructure projects. However, this is to prevent large construction projects from polluting the environment and to ensure that public contributions to large projects are made.
"Together, we're conquering America's proud legacy as a nation of builders and a nation that can do things," said Trump.
Trump was in Atlanta to announce changes to the National Environmental Policy Act's regulations on how and when authorities must conduct environmental audits to facilitate the construction of highways, pipelines, chemical and solar plants, and other projects.
The 1970 law changed environmental supervision in the United States by requiring federal agencies to assess whether a project would harm the air, land, water, or wildlife, and to give the public the right to review and submit.
Critics called Trump's move a cynical attempt to limit the ability of the public to review and influence proposed projects under one of the country's basic environmental laws.
"This may be the biggest giveaway for polluters in the past 40 years," said Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that works to save endangered species.
Trump has made the cut in government regulations a hallmark of his presidency and viewed it as a way to promote jobs. Environmental groups say regulatory setbacks threaten public health and make it more difficult to curb global warming. As Congress and administration argue about how to increase infrastructure investment, the president relies on his deregulation push to demonstrate progress.
The most important changes in the new regulation include the limitation on when environmental assessments of projects are required by the federal government and the limitation on how long federal authorities and the public have to evaluate and comment on the environmental impact of a project.
“We will not go through certain projects for environmental reasons. They have to be environmentally friendly. But, you know what? We'll know in a year. We'll know in a year and a half. We won't know in 20 years, "said Trump.
According to NEPA, all federal authorities have to assess the potential environmental impact of the proposed projects. However, less than 1% of these reviews are complex and detailed reviews that Trump focused on – environmental impact statements.
Opponents say the changes the Trump administration has made will have an excessive impact on predominantly minority communities. According to a 2017 study by the Clean Air Task Force and the National, more than 1 million African Americans live within half a mile of natural gas facilities and are at risk of cancer, which is above the Environmental Protection Agency's concern about those emitted by those facilities Toxine is an association for the promotion of colored people
"Donald Trump is taking away the last lines of defense for frontline communities and continues to show total disregard for our environment and those who advocate racial and environmental justice," said Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Chairman, D-N.Y.
Mustafa Santiago Ali, a former associate administrator in the Obama administration's EPA Environmental Justice Office, said Black and other minority communities would "pay for their health and ultimately for their lives" for the changes to the rules.
Business groups generally supported the changes.
"The modernization and clarification of NEPA could not come at a better time for our country as we recover from COVID-19," said Anne Bradbury, CEO of the American Exploration and Production Council, a trading group for oil and gas explorers.
For his announcement, Trump chose Georgia, a swing state, in the general election. Trump won the republican state by 5 percentage points in 2016, but some polls show that he lags behind former vice president Joe Biden, the alleged democratic candidate. This is Trump's ninth trip to Georgia and his sixth visit to Atlanta during his presidency.
The President's trip also comes as the state has seen an increase in coronavirus cases and has now counted more than 12,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,000 deaths.
The White House said government efforts would accelerate the expansion of Interstate 75 near Atlanta, a major freight route that often slows traffic. The state will create two interstate lanes that are exclusively for commercial vehicles. The state announced last fall before the White House unveiled its proposed rule that it would postpone the deadline for the substantial completion of the project until 2028.
Trump, who spoke at a UPS facility, said the project would save the company and its drivers an exceptional number of hours a year. Most of the crowd wore a mask, but not all. Trump was not wearing a mask.
Republican lawmakers welcomed the new rule and said an update was long overdue.
“At the same time, we can protect the environment and drive our economy forward. This rule accomplishes this, "said Senator John Barrasso, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Trump's trip to Georgia took place one day after former Vice President Joe Biden announced an infrastructure plan that focuses on improving the energy efficiency of buildings and homes and promoting environmental conservation efforts in agriculture. In the plan, Biden promises to spend $ 2 trillion over four years to promote its energy proposals.
Matt Hill, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said Trump's regulatory efforts were an attempt to "destroy a bipartisan cornerstone law to distract from the fact that" Infrastructure Week "has never and never will take place while he is president. "
Freking reported from Washington. Associate press writer Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report.