Trump weakens environmental law to speed up permits for pipelines, freeways

The 210 freeway in Southern California.
(Image credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

President Trump announced on Wednesday he will overhaul the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act, weakening it so federal infrastructure projects can be pushed through faster.

Under the law, federal agencies must consider the environmental impact of a project before it is approved, with the public and interest groups allowed to comment. Trump's new regulations limit the review time so permits for projects like power plants, pipelines, and freeways can be issued quickly, The New York Times reports. Speaking in Atlanta, Trump said there are "mountains and mountains of red tape" that block infrastructure projects, and "all of that ends today."

The oil and gas industry, construction companies, and Republican lawmakers have all decried the federal permitting process, saying it takes too long and is used by environmentalists to block projects. Two people with knowledge of the matter told the Times Trump's changes include implementing a two-year time limit for all environmental studies and eliminating the need for agencies to look at a project's indirect effects on the environment.

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Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Times this "may be the single biggest giveaway to polluters in the past 40 years," and the Trump administration is "turning back the clock to when rivers caught fire, our air was unbreathable, and our most beloved wildlife was spiraling toward extinction."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.