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Policy & Politics

Trump Tramples On National Environmental Policy Act In New Executive Order

Trump has chosen this moment, in the middle of calls for a radical new stance on social justice, to burden communities of color with a new executive order that will fall most heavily on them.

The National Environmental Policy Act was signed into law by Richard Nixon 50 years ago.

According to the EPA, “The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was one of the first laws ever written that establishes the broad national framework for protecting our environment. NEPA’s basic policy is to assure that all branches of government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment.

“NEPA requirements are invoked when airports, buildings, military complexes, highways, parkland purchases, and other federal activities are proposed. Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs), which are assessments of the likelihood of impacts from alternative courses of action, are required from all Federal agencies and are the most visible NEPA requirements.”

Last week, the sociopath in charge of the US government signed an executive order declaring that the country is experiencing a national emergency as a result of the economic slowdown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. The national emergency designation means the burdens imposed by NEPA can be ignored, at least temporarily. The order directs all federal agencies to waive long-standing environmental laws in order to speed up federal approval for new mines, highways, pipelines, and other infrastructure projects, particularly those that impact federal lands.

“Unnecessary regulatory delays will deny our citizens opportunities for jobs and economic security, keeping millions of Americans out of work and hindering our economic recovery from the national emergency,” the executive order states.

Certain segments of the economy are cheering the move. Care to guess who they are? Did you say the oil and gas industries? Oh, you betcha. The drillers are positively salivating at the prospect of getting back to business as usual despite a sharp drop in demand for their death dealing products.

“Removing bureaucratic barriers that stifle economic growth is paramount to getting American energy workers back in their jobs and spurring business investment that gets our economy moving again,” said American Exploration and Production Council chief executive Anne Bradbury, according to the Washington Post. Her group represents the country’s shale industry and large producers of oil and gas. “We value the importance of these reforms now, and underscore the need for finalizing rules across regulatory agencies that will implement permanent reforms.”

American Gas Association President Karen Harbert said the directive “rebalances the permitting process to consider environmental impacts and the need for infrastructure, jobs and affordable energy.”

Not So Fast, Donald

The problem is, anyone who relies on the executive order could spend more time in federal court defending legal challenges than actually building stuff.

Jason Redd, who describes himself as a developer in the electrical power industry tweets:

Thomas Jensen, a partner in the international law firm Perkins Coie, told the Washington Post in an email that any decisions made in response to the executive order could be challenged in court. He noted that the National Environmental Policy Act was enacted 50 years ago partly to prevent arbitrary federal decisions such as building highways through parks and communities of color and that the current administration cannot simply set aside laws aimed at protecting vulnerable Americans or the environment.

“I will not be surprised to see many observers comparing this move — declaring an emergency to shield agency decisions from the public — to the order to clear Lafayette Square on Monday evening,” he wrote. “It’s just one more face of authoritarian ideology, with a clear link to issues of race and equality and government accountability.”

The US and people around the world are finally starting to awaken from their long winter’s nap to realize that communities of color are often burdened by the conditions that affect their existence — more pollution leading to poor health, limited access to healthcare, and shorter life spans. It’s part of the reason hundreds of thousands of people are protesting in Washington, DC and it many other cities both in the US and around the world.

As the nation rallies for social justice, this is an especially poor time for the puling potentate of Pennsylvania Avenue to curry favor with big money donors while at the same time creating more negative results for communities of color. As Bret Stephens of the New York Times wrote today about the so-called president: “With malice toward all; with charity for none.”

Tramp is more than tone deaf. He is a fraud, a liar, and a con man who cares for none but himself. Since the day he took office, he has coddled the wealthy and the powerful and shown no inclination to be a president to all, only to those who will enhance his “brand.” This latest executive order is a ploy, something that can be used in a campaign ad. The fact that it has been issued now, in the midst of such national turmoil, shows how utterly unfit for office this man is.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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