Jan 3, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Report: Revision to environmental law could limit climate change review

In this image, large pipes are stacked on either side of a dirt road.

Unused pipe for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline sits outside Gascoyne, North Dakota in 2014. Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

A new Trump administration proposal aims to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, which would make infrastructure and fossil fuel projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline easier to accomplish, the New York Times reports.

What's happening: The proposed revision would allow agencies to ignore "cumulative" consequences of major infrastructure projects — which courts have interpreted as weighing a project's impact on climate change.

Details: The law in question is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which Congress first passed in 1970. It dictates the government's environmental reviews of major infrastructure and energy projects.

  • A government official "who has seen the proposed regulation but was not authorized to speak about it publicly" told the Times that the Trump administration also plans to narrow the scope of which projects require environmental review.
  • "That could make it likely that more projects will sail through the approval process without having to disclose plans to do things like discharge waste, cut trees or increase air pollution," the NYT's Lisa Friedman writes.

What to watch: Final action on the matter is expected before November's presidential election, per the Times.

Between the lines, via Axios' Amy Harder: Global warming, along with other environmental issues, could get short shrift with the change, but big changes in the law would likely require congressional approval, like the original law itself.

Go deeper: EPA's Trump-appointed scientific advisers criticize new proposals

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