Trump, Biden Offer Conflicting Infrastructure Plans
The changes, which were announced early this year, affect the enforcement of the National Environmental Policy Act, which was enacted in 1970 as the nation's first major environmental law. According to the current administration, the law's previous regulatory requirements sometimes represented an onerous burden to infrastructure construction projects.
The new regulations reduce the number of projects subject to NEPA review, limit the timeline for reviews to two years, and nix a requirement that federal agencies take into account the cumulative environmental effects of a project, including any contribution to climate change.
A number of business groups favored the changes. "Our efforts should be used for building the infrastructure Americans desperately need, not wasted on mountains of paperwork and endless delay,” National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmon told CNBC.
Environmental organizations are highly critical of the changes, which they say will allow increased levels of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Critics also worry that new regulations will ignore the environmental impact of projects on poorer communities, especially communities of color.
“This is a clear attempt to silence and sideline people to make it easier for industry to pollute our communities," National Resources Defense Council CEO Gina McCarthy said in a statement. “People have a right to weigh in before a highway project tears up their neighborhood or a pipeline goes through their backyard."
Opponents of the changes promised a court challenge, which would probably delay their implementation until after the election. If Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency, wins in November, he has said he would undo the environmental regulation changes undertaken by the Trump administration, Time reports.
Also this week, Biden outlined a $2 trillion plan that would, among other things, addresses infrastructure. Under the proposal, the federal government would invest in rebuilding roads, bridges and the broadband system, but also light rail and bus systems, and encourage the production of electric cars.
In real estate, the proposal would create incentives to make residential and commercial buildings more energy efficient, and build 1.5 million energy-efficient housing units, CNBC reports.
Environmental activists and organized labor praised the Biden plan. "By focusing on investments in new technology, increasing demand for American-made and sourced clean vehicles ... [this] plan will ensure that the industry will thrive for decades to come with good paying union jobs," the United Auto Workers said in a statement.
The president criticized the Biden plan, and so did his allies in Congress. “You would have higher energy costs and you would see who gets hit the hardest — it’s low-income families,” Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana told the New York Times.