Jun 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump moves to accelerate infrastructure without weighing environmental costs

Trump stands behind a podium and American flags
President Trump briefs reporters in the Rose Garden on June 1. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday allowing agencies to accelerate infrastructure projects that may have significant environmental impact without formally weighing those potential consequences or requesting public input, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The move is based on Trump identifying the coronavirus pandemic as an economic emergency, which waives the usual rules that federal agencies follow when reviewing projects like highways and energy infrastructure.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Amy Harder: This move is inflaming America's already hyper-charged debates around environmental safeguards, the pandemic and racial discrimination in communities of color.

The big picture: The coronavirus adversely impacts people more with existing respiratory problems, which scientists say can be caused by air pollution. Communities of color are often closest to polluting facilities like oil refineries and coal plants, putting them at yet another disadvantage when it comes to the combined effects of the virus and environmental problems.

  • The administration has rolled back at least 66 environmental and climate-focused policies, with a focus on revising or repealing Obama-era rules on air pollution, drilling and infrastructure, per a New York Times analysis.

Flashback: The Environmental Protection Agency said in late March that it would not take action against power plants and other facilities that violate rules on air and water pollution or handling hazardous waste if those breaches were the result of the pandemic.

Yes, but: Some experts suggest the move is more bark than bite, and legal challenges are expected regardless.

Go deeper: Removal of EPA waterway protections set to go into effect in June

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