Trump to Exclude Climate Crisis Impacts From Infrastructure Planning
The Trump administration will continue its assault on the environment when it unveils new regulations on Wednesday that will limit the types of projects that require environmental review and it will no longer require federal agencies to consider impacts on the climate crisis in new infrastructure projects, as Reuters reported.
The changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) could pave the way for projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and other fossil fuel projects that have been held up by the courts because climate impacts were not considered in an environmental review, as The New York Times reported.
The new rule will also limit the scope of projects that need any environmental review. That means that proposed projects can be easily approved and not have to disclose intentions to discharge waste, increase air pollution or clear-cut trees, as The New York Times reported.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which oversees how almost 80 percent of government agencies meet their NEPA obligations, will announce that federal agencies will no longer be asked to consider "cumulative" climate change impacts when looking at federal projects, as Reuters reported.
Mary B. Neumayr, the president's top environmental adviser, who chairs the CEQ said the changes would allow for faster reviews and is fairer to applicants who must wait an average of 4.5 years to get a final decision on their applications, according to Bloomberg Environment.
"It's a priority for this administration to have a process that's predictable and transparent and timely, so that we can get to a decision," Neumayr said to Bloomberg Environment. "It may not always be the decision that the applicant has requested, but it's important that they get a decision."
Yet, that efficiency comes at a cost, according to critics.
"If your process is so efficient that you undercut getting the right information," then "you've lost something," said Brenda Mallory, former CEQ general counsel under the Obama administration, at a Dec. 17, 2019 panel convened by the Environmental Law Institute, as Bloomberg Environment reported.
In a clever sleight of hand, the CEQ's proposal will not overhaul or replace NEPA. Instead, it will revise the rules that steer how the law is implemented. Once the proposal is released on Wednesday, there will be a 60-day public comment period before the change can go into effect, according to The New York Times.
"This proposal is really about trying to remove that barrier of the courts," said Christy Goldfuss, former chair of the CEQ between 2015 and 2017. She added that the Trump proposal would cause lasting damage, as Reuters reported.
Goldfuss said that environmental groups have relied on the courts to follow a requirement created under the Obama administration that forces applications to consider climate impacts. That rule has put a stop to a dozen big polluting projects, according to Reuters.
If the rule goes through, it will weaken critical safeguards for air, water and wildlife. It will also take away a powerful tool that environmental activists have employed to slow down or put a stop to coal and oil expansion, as The New York Times reported.
"It has the potential to distort infrastructure planning by making it easier to ignore predictable futures that could severely degrade the projects," said Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law to The New York Times. He added that not only will it lead to more pipelines and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, it will also lead put new roads and bridges at risk since sea-level rise will not be considered.
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By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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