The proposed rule announced by the White House's Council on Environmental Quality on Thursday would be the first major shift to implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act in four decades and is meant to streamline the federal environmental review process by allowing the government to approve pipelines and highways at a more efficient clip. Among other things, they would weaken the ability of local governments and environmental groups to challenge projects, and deny NEPA review to projects with less federal involvement - which would lower a regulatory hurdle for privately funded pipelines. The president frequently cites deregulation and tax cuts as the major drivers behind the surging USA economy. In the letter they say every $1 billion dollars spent on infrastructure leads to 13,000 jobs.
Trump told reporters that he was acting because projects were being "tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process", adding he would not stop until "gleaming new infrastructure has made America the envy of the world again".
"Under the proposed rule, for any category of activity or project that requires a federal permit or other approval, the NEPA process will be more predictable and timely", said a second official with the Council on Environmental Quality.
Assessing a major project's impact on climate change is not mandated by NEPA, but over the last few years, federal courts have ruled that the law requires the federal government to consider a project's carbon footprint in decisions related to leasing public lands for drilling or building pipelines. The public, including those living in the vicinity of a proposed dam, pipeline, or other major project, also had the right to review and input.
For some projects, these reviews have taken a decade or longer.
A CEQ fact sheet, which was seen by Reuters, stated: "The proposed rule seeks to reduce unnecessary paperwork and delays, and to promote better decision-making consistent with NEPA's statutory requirements".
Numerous changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act, a landmark measure that touches almost every significant construction project in the country, have been long sought by the oil and gas industry, whose members applauded the move and called it long overdue. United States federal agencies prepare approximately 170 such assessments per year. It also says that the time taken to complete an environmental impact statement is now nearly 5 years on average, and for highways has averaged over 7 years-leading to what the administration says is a hindrance for securing approval for road, bridge, airport, railway, and waterway projects.
She praised the administration for clarifying the regulations and creating what she described as a more-efficient process that "removes bureaucratic barriers that were stifling construction of key infrastructure projects".
"It's big government at its absolute worst", Trump said.
Some of the country's biggest industry groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, have also complained about lengthy permitting delays.
Trump detailed the changes at the White House, with economic adviser Larry Kudlow, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. "Now, I guess we're in too much of a rush for short-term profits to really care any more about protecting the environment".
Jennifer Houston, the president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said that cattlemen are subject to NEPA reviews on a regular basis for grazing permits, improving their rangeland, or applying for federal programs.