President Trump on Thursday proposed major reforms to the environmental regulations that govern the infrastructure and construction industries — a move that earned plaudits from the National Association of Realtors.
Vince Malta, president of NAR, joined Trump Thursday at the White House for the proposal’s unveiling. In a statement afterward, Malta commended the president for “moving to modernize the National Environmental Policy Act” (NEPA). Malta also argued that the housing industry has seen many “projects paralyzed by arbitrary delays and unreasonable cost increase” since NEPA was first passed in the 1970s.
“NAR has long advocated for common-sense reforms to promote infrastructure development and streamline review processes without compromising on critical environmental protections,” Malta added.
The White House described its proposed reforms Thursday as an effort to “modernize and accelerate environmental reviews” for project that fall under NEPA. Such projects typically include dams, bridges, pipelines, roads and other infrastructure. The idea is that by streamlining environmental regulations, those projects can be completed more quickly and for less money.
Among the proposed changes, Trump wants to add a 2-year limit for the completion of environmental impact statements, which the White House said in a statement currently take an average of almost five years to finish.
The proposal also would set a one-year limit for the completion of environmental assessments, promote collaboration between various governmental entities, and set page limits for documents filed under NEPA, among other things.
Like other recent regulatory announcements from the Trump administration, however, Thursday’s proposal was controversial.
On the one hand, a number of business groups and conservative political leaders praised the move. The National Association of Manufacturers, for example, said in a statement that Trump was “once again taking action to power our industry.” And Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican who sits on the House Natural Resources Committee, told the Deseret News that “these actions by President Trump will ensure the government works better for all.”
Those comments align with NAR’s own praise for the proposal, with Malta adding in his statement that NAR “is confident that the reforms announced today will remove the barriers standing in the way of infrastructure improvements that stimulate economic growth and create jobs.”
“We look forward to partnering with the White House as it works [to] implement these changes in the most responsible and effective way possible,” Malta also said.
However, there were critics Thursday as well.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, argued in a statement that “this NEPA rewrite favors big polluters and corporate profits over balanced, science-based decision making.” And liberal-leaning advocacy group the Center for America Progress (CAP) described the proposal as an “attack on environmental review.”
“It’s about clearing the way for more polluting pipelines and dirty fossil fuel projects — plain and simple,” Christy Goldfuss, a senior vice president at CAP, added in a statement.
The proposed regulatory change also comes during the same week Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) unveiled its own controversial proposal. In that case, HUD wants to create more flexibility around anti-segregation regulations, though critics say such moves would erode civil rights protections.
Both the HUD proposal and the changes to NEPA still have to pass through a review period before going into effect. However, whatever happens, both are part of Trump’s larger agenda to roll back regulations, with the White House noting Thursday in its statement that the “administration has taken nearly eight deregulatory actions for every new significant regulatory action.”
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