President Trump has signed an executive order to expedite the permitting of new infrastructure and energy projects as a way to address the economic downturn driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, several news outlets report. The order waives several long-standing environmental laws to allow for the faster approval, including the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), according to The Washington Post.
Under the order, agencies will no longer be required to solicit public comments on proposed projects, or analyze their environmental impacts while the U.S. economy is in crisis and recovering from the coronavirus. This would apply to projects such as pipelines, oil and gas drilling, and highways.
This follows a previous order last month that directed federal agency heads to “identify regulatory standards that may inhibit economic recovery,” The Hill reported. And it is part of the Trump administration’s long-standing efforts to dismantle U.S. environmental regulations., including NEPA, which requires environmental assessments of major infrastructure projects. Environmentalists say this law is one of the key tools in the fight again environmental injustice in communities of color.
“For more than a week now, people have encircled the White House to demand their voices be heard because, for too long, authorities have ignored them or marginalized them,” Kym Hunter, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a statement. “It is absolutely breathtaking that the Trump administration would use this moment to further squelch these voices. We won’t let this stand. No one is above the law.”