Cartoon by Tom Curry
Trump's infrastructure plan aims to sweep away 'inefficient' environmental reviews
The Guardian: The Trump administration is attempting to speed up or even sweep away various environmental reviews in its plan to fix America’s crumbling infrastructure and construct a wall along the border with Mexico.
The White House’s infrastructure plan targets what it calls “inefficiencies” in the approval of roads, bridges, airports and other projects. It proposes a 21-month limit for environmental reviews of projects that potentially threaten endangered species or fragile habitats, along with curbs on federal agencies’ ability to raise objections to new construction.
In a meeting with state and local officials on Monday, Trump said “we’re going to get your permits very quickly.” The president, who mentioned he was able to push through the building of an ice rink in New York’s Central Park within a few months, said he will “speed the permit approval process from 10 years to two years, and maybe even to one year.”
The campaign to fast-track development over concerns has been picked up by Trump’s lieutenants. Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has attempted to quicken the pace even further, telling the same group that the EPA will “process every permit, up or down, within six months” by the end of 2018.
The administration has sought to completely cast aside environmental considerations when it comes to its controversial border wall. It recently acquired a waiver for the third time in order to speed construction of 20 miles of the wall in New Mexico, and Trump has rescinded an Obama-era rule that demanded officials consider sea level rise and other climate change factors in federally-funded projects.
Environmentalists have warned that Trump’s agenda will place extra pressure on endangered species and risk exacerbating hazards, such as flooding, by failing to factor climate change.
A recent report by the Center for Biological Diversity found that the border wall risks the habitat of dozens of species, including the arroyo toad, the Peninsular bighorn sheep and the jaguar, which was once driven out of the south-western US but has been spotted again in recent years due to the northward migration from a group located around 100 miles south of the border in Sonora, Mexico.
A coalition of conservation groups said Americans are “overwhelmingly opposed” to any sidestepping of the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act or National Environmental Policy Act >>>