Rollback of Environmental Law Could Be Harmful to MN

Rollback of Environmental Law Could Be Harmful to MN Click to Enlarge

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Conservation groups are pledging to push back against a new Trump administration proposal that calls for scaling back environmental review of large projects. They say states like Minnesota could see harmful effects.

The group Defenders of Wildlife warns the plan would rapidly accelerate large projects, like oil pipelines and highway construction, without an acceptable review of their carbon footprint.

The group's Senior Vice President for Conservation Programs Bob Dreher says it would allow developers of such projects to avoid public scrutiny that has long been a benchmark of the National Environmental Policy Act.

"These regulations significantly retrench on the mandate of that act in ways that will at least put at risk that the public will not know about consequences - long-term consequences, really significant consequences - of federal actions," says Dreher.

The plan comes amid the legal and regulatory wrangling over the proposed Line Three oil pipeline in northern Minnesota. Dreher says highway projects in Minnesota could also come together more quickly - but lead to increased traffic and harmful emissions without sufficient environmental review.

The Trump administration says the move would eliminate red tape for projects that benefit the public.

Environmental groups are expected to file lawsuits to block the proposed changes. Dreher points out that court history surrounding the NEPA process has been on their side, especially when considering the cumulative effect these projects can have.

"I don't frankly see how they can expect that to survive judicial review when there are so many court decisions that require it," says Dreher.

Outside of any legal challenge, a two-month window for public comment starts when the proposal is published in the Federal Register, which should be today. There will also be a pair of public hearings before any final regulation is issued.

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