A new executive order from President Trump uses the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to undo key legal protections against environmental injustice.
The executive order allows federal agencies to waive public study and review requirements for many projects subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA is a critical tool for poor and minority communities to defend themselves against projects like refineries and highways which disproportionately impact them, compounding the harms these vulnerable communities already face from pollution.
“Abusing emergency powers to deep-six necessary environmental reviews is utterly senseless. These reviews are required by law to protect people from industries that can harm our health and our communities. Getting rid of them will hit those who live closest to polluting facilities and highways the hardest—in many of the same communities already suffering the most from the national emergencies at hand. Americans are crying out for leadership to confront racist violence and stop the spread of a deadly pandemic. This administration is not only ignoring those cries—but piling on the burden. We will not let this stand,” said Gina McCarthy, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
A news release from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) commented that “rather than working to heal a nation in pain, in the middle of a global pandemic that is killing members of the Black and Latinx communities at disproportionately high rates and threatening job security and safety at higher rates as well, President Trump is focused on making things even worse.”
We and other environmental groups are urging voters to take part in this year’s pivotal elections with this and other environmental crises in mind.