A number of environmental protection groups on Wednesday announced their intention to bring the Trump administration to court directly after President Donald Trump announced his finalized plan to roll back the National Environmental Policy Act.
By weakening the 50-year-old law known as NEPA, the president will end the system of thorough environmental impact reviews, which are meant to keep infrastructure projects from damaging biodiversity, polluting waterways and residential areas, and threatening the climate.
"Gutting NEPA silences voices and puts vulnerable communities, health, and our environment—including our air and water—at risk."
—Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice
Trump announced the sweeping changes to the law at a campaign stop in Atlanta Wednesday afternoon, touting the plan as one that will "modernize" and "streamline" infrastructure projects as environmental reviews will need to be completed within two years.
The Western Environmental Law Center rejected the administration's euphemisms for what it called Trump's attempt to "eviscerate...the single most important safeguard for environmental justice, public health, and environmental protection in the U.S."
"This does not represent 'streamlining,' a 'revision,' a 'modernization,' or any such minimization of the very real effects this will have for Americans and the clean air and water we require to exercise our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," said Brian Sweeney, communications director for the group. "This overreach will also deliberately and massively curtail public input on major federal decision-making. Dramatic? Yes. This is a rewrite of a law written by Congress, without Congressional action. We will sue over this."
Environmental law group Earthjustice also announced soon after the president's remarks that it will file a lawsuit against the administration.
BREAKING: The Trump administration finalized its proposal to gut the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a law that gives communities tools to fight back against waste incinerators, pipelines, and polluting highways. We'll see them in court. https://t.co/LiCdk6MTHa
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— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice) July 15, 2020
Kristen Boyles, an attorney with the organization, expressed exasperation with Trump's insistence that achieving quick approval for oil and gas pipeline projects is the key to an "unprecedented economic boom"—despite evidence that the climate crisis, fueled by fossil fuel emissions, costs the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
"When is this administration going to learn that the economy is the people?" said Boyles. "Gutting NEPA silences voices and puts vulnerable communities, health, and our environment—including our air and water—at risk. We're not going to sit back and allow a decision that could harm public health during a public health crisis go unscathed. We'll be seeing them in court."
Environment America slammed the administration for ending a decades-long effort to include frontline communities in the decision-making process behind infrastructure projects by establishing public comment periods prior to projects' approval.
"NEPA has quietly protected some of our most precious, environmentally sensitive places," said Katie Murtha, vice president of federal government relations at Environment America. "It has helped federal agencies minimize the environmental impact of the projects they oversee; it has allowed for public input into all planning efforts."
"Without these safeguards, our environment is at greater risk because our government will no longer have to look before it leaps," she continued. "These regulations have served as a key tool for assuring the federal government acts as a responsible trustee for future generations."