Saturday, January 04, 2020

Trump Rule Would Exclude Climate Change in Infrastructure Planning

As Australia literally burns due to climate change which its prime minister denies is real, the ever toxic Trump/Pence regime is pushing a new federal rule that would bar the consideration of climate change in planning infrastructure construction. The result would be to allow more polluting projects - e.g., pipelines for oil - and pretending that sea levels are not rising. It's true idiocy yet is mainstream Republican thinking (or lack of thinking) and does not bode well for America and the world if implemented. It is but one more reason why removing Trump from office by any means is crucial. Meanwhile, one can only hope that states will enact laws that will hinder the federal effort to destroy the environment.  A piece in the New York Times looks at this latest effort to harm Americans while enriching the fossil fuel industry and other corporate despoilers of the environment. Here are highlights: 
Federal agencies would no longer have to take climate change into account when they assess the environmental impacts of highways, pipelines and other major infrastructure projects, according to a Trump administration plan that would weaken the nation’s benchmark environmental law.
The proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act could sharply reduce obstacles to the Keystone XL oil pipeline and other fossil fuel projects that have been stymied when courts ruled that the Trump administration did not properly consider climate change when analyzing the environmental effects of the projects.
According to one government official who has seen the proposed regulation but was not authorized to speak about it publicly, the administration will also narrow the range of projects that require environmental review. That could make it likely that more projects will sail through the approval process without having to disclose plans to do things like discharge waste, cut trees or increase air pollution.
The new rule would no longer require agencies to consider the “cumulative” consequences of new infrastructure. In recent years courts have interpreted that requirement as a mandate to study the effects of allowing more planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. It also has meant understanding the impacts of rising sea levels and other results of climate change on a given project.
[T]he Trump administration has been aggressive in its efforts to roll back environmental regulations. The 50 or so pages of revisions that the Council on Environmental Quality is expected to make public on Wednesday would not amend the act itself. Rather, they would revise the rules that guide the implementation of the law.
Environmental activists and legal experts said the proposed changes would weaken critical safeguards for air, water and wildlife. The move, if it survives the expected court challenges, also could eliminate a powerful tool that climate change activists have used to stop or slow Mr. Trump’s encouragement of coal and oil development as part of its “energy dominance” policy.
In March, a federal judge found that the Obama administration did not adequately take into account the climate change impact of leasing public land for oil gas drilling in Wyoming, a ruling that also presented a threat to Mr. Trump’s plans for fossil fuel development.
One month later, another federal judge dealt a blow to Mr. Trump’s plan to lift an Obama-era moratorium on coal mining on public lands when he found the administration did not adequately study the environmental effects of mining as required by law.
Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, said eliminating the need to consider climate change would lead to more pipelines and other projects that worsen global emissions. It could also put roads, bridges and other infrastructure at greater risk, he said, because developers would not be required, for instance, to analyze whether sea-level rise threatened to eventually submerge a project.
“It has the potential to distort infrastructure planning by making it easier to ignore predictable futures that could severely degrade the projects,” Mr. Gerrard said.
Mr. Gerrard said the environmental review requirements of New York’s state-level version of the environmental policy act had helped to defeat a golf course that Mr. Trump hoped to build in Mount Kisco, N.Y. The Seven Springs golf course would have abutted Byram Lake, a reservoir for drinking water. Mr. Gerrard, who represented opponents of the project, said environmental reviews enabled the community to show that the drinking water supply could have been endangered. Mr. Trump shelved the project in 2004, but his public comments indicate the episode still rankles.
I am old enough that I will not live to see the worse consequences of the efforts of foul individuals like Trump.  My grandchildren will not be so lucky. 

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