Drilling, mines, other projects hastened by Trump order

    President Donald Trump

    Washington, DC (AP) - The Trump administration is seeking to fast track environmental reviews of dozens of major energy and infrastructure projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The projects include oil and gas drilling, hazardous fuel pipelines, wind farms, and highway projects in multiple states, according to documents provided to The Associated Press.

    The plan to speed up project approvals comes after President Donald Trump in June ordered the Interior Department and other agencies to scale back environmental reviews under special powers he has during the coronavirus emergency.

    More than 60 projects targeted for expedited environmental reviews were detailed in an attachment to a July 15 letter from Assistant Interior Secretary Katherine MacGregor to White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow.

    The letter, obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity through a freedom of information lawsuit, does not specify how the review process would be hastened. It says the specified energy, environmental and natural resource projects “are within the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to perform or advance.”

    Included on Interior’s list are oil and gas industry proposals such as the 5,000-well Converse gas field in Wyoming, the Jordan Cove liquified natural gas terminal in Oregon, and the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline in Virginia.

    Other projects targeted for quick review include highway improvements in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and other states; storm levees and wetlands restoration initiatives in Louisiana; the Lake Powell water pipeline in Utah; wind farms in New Mexico and off the Massachusetts coast; and mining projects in Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, and Alaska.

    Environmentalist Brett Hartl said the move to expedite major projects represents a “giveaway” to industries that curried favor with Trump.

    “Building an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant is not going to solve the problem that’s happening in the country,” said Hartl, government affairs director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is where wére potentially going to see environmental harm down the road because they are skipping steps in the process.”

    The group sued the government in federal court to force it to release documents related to Trump’s order after the group’s initial request under the Freedom of Information Act was refused.

    MacGregor’s letter noted that some projects had been placed on shorter schedules prior to Trump’s order. Some of those that were on the list were recently completed, such as last month’s approval of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

    Interior Department officials did not immediately provide responses to questions about MacGregor’s letter from The Associated Press, including a request for details on how the environmental reviews are being expedited and whether any rules were being waived.

    The bid to speed up reviews is in line with the Trump administration’s greater emphasis on reduced regulatory burdens for corporations.

    The president’s June order directed federal officials to pursue emergency workarounds of bedrock environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, to hasten the completion of infrastructure projects to speed economic recovery.

    He said the action was necessary because the virus has slowed down large segments of the society and brought massive unemployment.

    More from News of the North

    Events

    • USDA Seafood Trade Relief Program

      The US Department of Agriculture Seafood Trade Relief Program has set aside $530 million for commercial fishermen hurt by the US – China trade war. Applicants can receive up to $250,000. This is a great opportunity for eligible fishermen and is especially timely given the additional fallout from COVID-19. US commercial fishermen who have a valid federal or state license or permit to catch seafood who bring their catch to shore and sell or transfer them to another party. that other party must be a legally permitted or licensed seafood dealer. alternatively, the catch can be processed at sea and sold by the same legally permitted entity that harvested or processed the product. Sign up is now through December 14th 2020, applications and additional information is available at farmers.gov/seafood.

      at None
    • Wearable Art Show

      The Wearable Art Show, originally scheduled for Sept. 19th has been postponed until Feb, 27th. Those wanting to join the planning committee or having questions can contact Bobbi Jordan at thinkart-thinksitka.com or check out their website and FB page…..sitkaartscouncil.org.

      at None
    • Read Harder Challenge

      Sitka Public Library offers printed lists of the Read Harder Challenge for teens and adults, an annual reading journey organized by Book Riot. The 24-task challenge, designed to help readers break out of their reading bubble and expand their worldview through books, runs for the year and participants can join at any time. For more information call Maite at 747- 4022.

      at None