President Trump today continued his unrelenting attack on the environment with proposed changes to rules that for 50 years have helped prevent industry from raping the natural world in which we all live -- and that help guard against climate change.
Wrapped up in promises that the changes will speed progress on needed infrastructure improvements, the proposed rules would weaken protections provided in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), signed by President Nixon, which requires federal agencies to conduct environmental impact statements before major construction projects can begin.
Trump told reporters that the changes would allow highways to be built in "a small fraction of the time," adding, “We will not stop until our nation’s gleaming new infrastructure has made America the envy of the world again. It used to be the envy of the world and now we’re like a third-world country. It’s really sad."
Especially ominous were the words of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who said, "The proposal affects virtually every significant decision by the federal government that affects the environment."
That should give us comfort? We should cheer that?
The end result of the changes would reduce community control over local building projects by redefining what constitutes a "major federal action" to exclude privately financed projects with minimal government funding or involvement.
Court challenges are fully expected, but remember what Trump and the Republicans have done to our federal courts, stacking them with dozens of conservative jurists. So, what will the future hold?
Pipelines, offshore drilling, highways -- maybe even Trump's beleaguered Wall on the Southern Border -- could be expedited if environmental impact statements, which often take years to complete, no longer are required. The new proposal would require government agencies to finish their most complex reviews within two years.
Added Bernhadt, “The consequences of the government being stuck in place are far-ranging.” He cited the lengthy process for approving new schools on Native American reservations, upgrading visitor centers at national parks and giving ranchers approval for grazing on public lands.
“The list goes on and on and on. The reality is that the needless red tape has, over time, lowered the expectations of American exceptionalism and excellence. And that is backwards.”
It is "backwards" to limit the potential damage of pipeline leaks or the destructive environmental impact of strip mining? And it is "backwards" to eliminate requirements that a proposed coal mine or oil drilling operation must consider whether that action would contribute to climate change? That's exactly what this proposal would do.
What is "backwards" is the Trump administration's penchant for returning to the good old days, when things were simple and uncomplicated; where untreated waste water could be discharged into our rivers and streams, where factory smokestacks can spew cancer-causing emissions without control, where huge construction projects can wipe out fields and forests without concern except for the satisfaction of greed.
That will be one of the legacies of Donald J. Trump. The unfettered satisfaction of greed.