U.S. Department of Interior Requests Expedited Environmental Reviews for Energy Projects from Trump Administration

(AP) — The Department of the Interior has asked the Trump Administration to expedite environmental reviews for several energy projects, including LNG facilities and pipelines, as part of the administration’s COVID-19 recovery plan. 

Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Photo:EQM Midstream

The plan to speed up project approvals comes after President Donald Trump in June ordered the Interior Department and other agencies to scale back environmental reviews under special powers he has during the coronavirus emergency.

More than 60 projects targeted for expedited environmental reviews were detailed in an attachment to a July 15 letter from Assistant Interior Secretary Katherine MacGregor to White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow.

The letter, obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, does not specify how the review process would be hastened. It says the specified energy, environmental and natural resource projects “are within the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to perform or advance.”

Included on Interior's list are the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas terminal in Oregon and the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline in Virginia.

Other projects listed include highway improvements in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and other states; storm levees and wetlands restoration initiatives in Louisiana; the Lake Powell water pipeline in Utah; wind farms in New Mexico and off the Massachusetts coast; and mining projects in Nevada, Idaho, Colorado and Alaska.

Environmentalist Brett Hartl said the move to expedite major projects represents a “giveaway" to industries that curried favor with Trump.

“This is where we're potentially going to see environmental harm down the road, because they are skipping steps in the process," said Hartl, government affairs director with the Center for Biological Diversity. 

MacGregor’s letter noted that some projects had been placed on shorter schedules before Trump’s order. Some of those that were on the list were recently completed, such as last month’s approval of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

Interior Department officials did not answer questions from the AP on how the environmental reviews are being expedited and whether any rules were being waived. The bid to speed up reviews is in line with the Trump administration’s greater emphasis on reduced regulatory burdens for corporations.

A spokesman for Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in an emailed statement that the administration was taking steps to improve government decision making while still making sure environmental consequences are “thoughtfully analyzed." 

“For far too long, critically important infrastructure, energy and other economic development projects have been needlessly paralyzed by federal red tape," spokesman Conner Swanson said.

The president’s June order directed federal officials to pursue emergency workarounds of bedrock environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, to hasten completion of infrastructure projects to speed economic recovery.

Swanson said the action was necessary because the virus has slowed down large segments of the society and brought massive unemployment.

Related News


{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}