By KEVIN FREKING
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is expected to announce a new federal rule to speed up the environmental review process for proposed highways, gas pipelines and other major infrastructure, a move that critics are describing as the dismantling of a 50-year-old environmental protection law.
Trump will travel to Atlanta on Wednesday to announce the federal rule as he seeks to make it easier to meet some of the country’s infrastructure needs. When he first announced the effort in January, the administration set a two-year deadline for completing full environmental impact reviews while less comprehensive assessments would have to be completed within one year. The White House said the final rule will promote the rebuilding of America.
Critics call the Republican president’s efforts a cynical attempt to limit the public’s ability to review, comment on and influence proposed projects under the National Environmental Policy Act, one of the country’s bedrock environmental protection laws.
“This may be the single biggest giveaway to polluters in the past 40 years,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that works to save endangered species.
Trump has made slashing government regulation a hallmark of his presidency and held it out as a way to boost jobs. But environmental groups say the regulatory rollbacks threaten public health and make it harder to curb global warming. With Congress and the administration divided over how to boost infrastructure investment, the president is relying on his deregulation push to demonstrate progress.
“The United States can’t compete and prosper if a bureaucratic system holds us back from building what we need,” Trump said when first announcing the sweeping rollback of National Environmental Policy Act rules.