NC Groups Challenge Trump Admin. Rewrite of Bedrock Environmental Law
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit arguing that the Trump administration has sped through an industry-friendly rewrite of the National Environmental Policy Act.
As one of the nation’s first major environmental laws, NEPA requires that any construction project proposed on federal lands — such as highways, buildings, and airports — be assessed for potential impact on the environment and consider local residents’ input.
Kym Hunter, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, said every administration is required to follow certain procedures when attempting a policy change.
“And what the Trump administration does here,” she said, “is cut every single corner in its rush to go ahead and pull down these environmental regulations that have been in place for the past four decades.”
The White House Council on Environmental Quality has said the rule change to relax the NEPA requirements, which went into effect last month, was made to speed up lengthy environmental assessments. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said he would undo the NEPA rollback.
Ron Ross of Charlotte, who heads the Northwood Estates Community Organization, said the rollback particularly will affect communities of color. For decades, he noted, urban-renewal projects placed Charlotte’s Black residents in the path of pollution from major construction projects.
“Now exists I-77, interchanges, Highway 16, all of those are in the area,” he said, “as well as the continuation of industrial facilities being located in our community.”
Ross said communities of color often lack the resources and time to battle proposals that compromise local air and water quality, and believes the NEPA changes will create additional obstacles.
“In our communities, again, we have a dilemma,” he said. “Do we worry about trying to provide food for our kids and make sure they’re doing OK? Or do we worry about the environment? And again, all of those things are tied together.”
In the lawsuit, groups that include Clean Air Carolina and the North Carolina Wildlife Federation said they rely on NEPA processes to flag projects that might impact air quality and climate change, from toll bridges and highway projects to concentrated animal-feeding operations.