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Trump Looks To Speed Up Oil Pipeline Permits By Dropping Climate Reviews

Keystone Pipeline

As part of the Trump Administration’s ongoing efforts to accelerate the permitting process for oil pipelines and other large infrastructure projects, the White House released on Thursday a plan to cut the timelines for such projects by omitting the assessment of a project’s climate impact.  

The new plan is proposed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and if it becomes law, it could be the first major amendment to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in forty years.

“The proposed rule seeks to reduce unnecessary paperwork and delays, and to promote better decision-making consistent with NEPA’s statutory requirements,” Reuters quoted a CEQ fact sheet about the proposed rule it has seen.

Under the new proposal, federal permitting agencies and regulators would not be obliged to assess and factor in the impact on climate of major infrastructure projects, including oil pipelines.

The Administration is pushing to have the controversial Keystone XL finally approved, after U.S. President Donald Trump resurrected the project dumped by Obama.

Keystone XL continues to face legal challenges, although the project got the go-ahead in August 2019 from a Nebraska court, which approved the alternative route after opponents disputed the original one. Indigenous and environmental groups still are challenging the second permit that the Trump Administration has issued for Keystone XL.

In a presidential message on the 50th anniversary of the NEPA, President Trump said earlier this year:

“To improve Federal agency coordination and make environmental reviews and permitting processes far less time-consuming, I directed Federal agencies to implement a One Federal Decision policy for major infrastructure projects.”

“Additionally, I directed the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to modernize the Federal environmental review and decision-making process.  As a result, CEQ has conducted a thorough review of its NEPA implementing regulations and will soon issue a proposal to update those regulations to address the many concerns my Administration has heard from hardworking Americans, small businesses, and State and local officials,” the message said on January 1.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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