Although this act hasn’t gotten an abundance of publicity on social platforms, it’s extremely crucial when it comes to the protection of our environment. Recently, Trump has directed federal agencies to bypass requirements of important environmental laws, leaving tons of organisms and ecosystems vulnerable to endangerment. Not only will this potentially hurt the lives of animals, but vulnerable communities could face tremendous impacts as well. Trump claims that this order was put into place to basically fast track the big, new, infrastructure projects, in order to boost the economy, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, he’s really using this order to avoid time-consuming processes and enable building of transportation and energy infrastructure (like oil and gas pipelines, fossil fuel export terminals, highways, etc.)
Usually, building infrastructure like the examples previously stated, require long approval processes under the NEPA. The NEPA, or the National Environmental Policy Act, was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970. This law was put into place to promote efforts that will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and promote the quality of the human environment. This law also ensures that agencies consider significant environmental consequences of their proposed projects or actions and to inform the public about their decision making.
This law was put into place for very specific reasons and helps to ensure the quality of the environment we live in. When taking this law away, we’re all vulnerable to important decisions being gone unseen. More specifically, communities of color are more likely to be vulnerable to be impacted by the waiving of this law. This isn’t something to be discussed lightly because cities have documented way more cases in asthma and respiratory problems in children growing up surrounded by pollution. We need to be informed about decisions being made in our cities in order to ensure the safety of ourselves, children, and loved ones.
What Do Critics Say?
Many critics question the legality of Trumps recent decision; they claim the order would shut down input from those affected by such projects. This means that people or communities that live in areas affected by potential or current projects wouldn’t have a decision or receive notice about such actions. (Perhaps they’d receive notice about it but they’d really have no input on the situation.)
Critics also claim that this is Trump’s way of using the pandemic as a cover to weaken certain environmental laws that he has long opposed. They emphasize the fact that the Trump Administration has already tried speeding up NEPA reviews, claiming they’re “outrageously slow and burdensome.”
Statements From Significant Individuals
Former EPA administrator and head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Gina McCarthy, takes a strong stance on the situation. McCarthy states, “Instead of trying to ease the pain of a nation in crisis, Trump is focused on easing the pain of polluters.”
This statement emphasizes two different subjects; a crisis and polluters. Although, they’re both a crisis. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly been the main focus in the past few months. Therefore, McCarthy defends the position of needing our president to focus more on helping people in this crisis, instead of helping businesses or industries that need to speed things up disregard any environmental reviews. McCarthy goes on to call the order an “abuse of emergency power”, and claims that blocking out environmental reviews is “utterly senseless.”
Another individual with a strong statement is Congressman Raúl Grijalva, a U.S. representative with the House Natural Resources Committee. He states, “Cutting NEPA takes away one of the few tools communities of color have to protect themselves and make their voices heard on federal decisions impacting them.”
When researching Grijalva, I came across his website where there’s a post including impactful words on this order placed by the Trump administration. He further discusses how this order will increase the power of industries that are responsible for pollution. This impacts communities in the area by exposing citizens to pollutants that produce illnesses. Therefore, the approach should not be accepted by any means due to the potential and expected negative outcomes.
A Similar Situation:
When comparing this order made by the current president to similar orders by past presidents, the limitations are more emphasized. For example, during the Obama administration in 2014, there was an expected volcanic eruption. So, the National Park Service received emergency exception to build an evacuation route. This volcano was expected to erupt 45 days after the exception was made to build the evacuation route. Therefore, a long process wasn’t possible. However, the agency did follow through with NEPA and involved the public, even with the emergency.
According to recent reports, the presidents order gives agencies thirty days to provide a summary report of projects. Some environmentalists say that the order is so broad, it may be unlawful. I think they say this because thirty days is an extremely short time given the measures needed to acquire such projects. They even go to the extent to say the order could end up in court, like past directives. It’s conflicting and controversial, but the quality of human life and the environment should be prioritized over industrial needs.
So, do we think this order will continue? Are there other orders that fly right past us and go unheard? How can we emphasize the importance of NEPA? What can we do?
How can we become involved in a situation that literally removes us from the picture?
1. Stay updated with politicians that discuss topics involving climate change, or any news at all! It’s important to stay up to date with events because our government is supposed to be somewhat influenced by us.
2. Vote, or register to vote! In order to make a change, sometimes we have to be the change. We’re given the opportunity to have an influence on our government, so why wouldn’t we use it to the most efficient extent?
3. Study or research certain topics that you’re interested in. If policing in America is a topic you’re constantly googling, try taking a criminal justice class to really understand specific content! If racism or sexism is constantly in your search history, try sociology and open your mind to new perspectives!
4. Sign petitions & support organizations that protect acts like NEPA.
Thanks For Reading!
Please contact me via email or social media with any questions, comments, or concerns about the recent order made to waive important environmental reviews! Share this article on your platforms to help bring awareness and attention to this order since it’s clearly been pushed far under the radar. It’s important for us to be included and have a voice, so use yours!