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Trump Admin. Proposes Rule to Ease Construction Regulations

The plan would ease environmental rules for some projects, set time limits for federal reviews and allow regulators to assess “cumulative” effects on climate change.

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump revived the political battle between businesspeople and environmentalists Thursday, proposing to reduce federal regulations on construction projects, which critics said would worsen climate change.

“From day one, my administration has made fixing this regulatory nightmare a top priority,” Trump said during a ceremony at the White House. “And we want to build new roads, bridges, tunnels, highways, bigger, better, faster, and we want to build them at less cost.”

Environmental groups said the plan benefits corporate interests at the expense of public health.

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said Trump’s proposed changes would undercut the National Environmental Policy Act, the nation’s landmark environmental law that turned 50 years old last week.

“The implications for access to clean air and clean water and for public input, especially among the low-income communities and communities of color most impacted by climate change and toxic pollution, could be dire,” Karpinski said.

The plan would basically ease environmental rules for construction projects that do not have significant federal funding. It would set time limits on the length of federal reviews of these projects and would not allow regulators to assess a project’s “cumulative” effects on climate change.

The proposals are likely to be published in the federal register this week, and they will undergo a process of public comment and hearings. The government is likely to issue final regulations in the fall.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Trump’s plan means “more polluters will be right there next to the water supply of our children. That’s a public health issue.”

At the White House, Trump said the approval process should boil down to “one federal decision,” rather than a series of approvals. He said the changes are designed to “slash job-killing regulations” and shrink “endless delays” in approval for necessary projects.

He called the current regulations “big government at its absolute worst.”

Members of the oil, gas, agriculture and trucking industries, as well as trade union groups, have long advocated for changes to environmental regulations, saying they are cumbersome and used by environmentalists to block projects.

Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, applauded the proposed changes, saying, “Our hope is that these improvements will modernize infrastructure permitting” for highways, bridges, power lines, and cell towers.

Critics said the changes will enable supporters of construction projects to discount the impact on climate change when seeking permits from the government. The results, they said, will be a worse environment with more deadly ramifications from climate change.

Copyright 2020, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY, David Jackson