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Trump rolls back environmental protections to accelerate infrastructure projects

Paul Best

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that his administration is overhauling the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act to speed up the approval process for major infrastructure projects like highways and pipelines.

“We just completed an unprecedented, and I want to say it’s absolutely unprecedented, top-to-bottom overhaul, should have been done years ago, of the infrastructure approval process,” Trump said at a UPS facility in Atlanta Wednesday. “This approval process that has costs trillions of dollars over the years for our country, and delays like you wouldn’t believe.”

A White House official told FOX News that the “new regulations will modernize, simplify and accelerate the environmental review process necessary to build a wide range of projects in the United States, including roads, bridges and highways.”

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The rollback will “reduce approval times for highways alone by at least 70 percent.," Trump said

The president previewed the rule change earlier this year, saying at the time that too much red tape has made the United States look "like a Third World country.”

Many developers and oil industry groups cheered the rule change by the Trump administration.

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Dan Eberhart, managing partner of Eberhart Capital and CEO of Canary LLC, one of the nation’s largest independent oil field services companies, said that it can take six years or longer to go through the NEPA process right now.

“My hope is that this will free up the logjam on a lot of projects and get people back to work. NEPA is 50, time for a tune-up,” Eberhart told FOX Business. “I wish Congress would revisit a lot of laws to see how they are working and update them if NEPA has been used as a blunt instrument to pummel developers. The result is that a lot of important infrastructure projects either don’t get done or end up costing far more than they should. The taxpayer ultimately picks up the bill. “

But many critics say that the rollback will just exacerbate ongoing climate change and harm public safety.

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“If the Trump administration tries to ram through polluting projects without the appropriate review and public comment, we will be right there ready to take them to court," Sharon Buccino, director of lands for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The Washington Post. "As we have seen with the recent pipeline and drilling cases, the administration’s attempts to rush this process have led to lawsuits — and more rather than less delay.”

Trump has made cutting regulations and getting rid of red tape a hallmark of his presidency.

“The last administration increased the Federal Register by 16,000 pages of job-killing regulations. Under my administration, we have cut the Federal Register by nearly 25,000 pages. More than any president in history,” Trump said Wednesday.

A New York Times analysis counts 67 environmental rules and regulations that have been reversed by the Trump administration. 33 more environmental regulations are in the process of being reversed.

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