Environmental groups sue over Trump’s highly touted changes to landmark regulations

Several environmental groups sued the Trump administration on Thursday over its regulatory changes to a landmark conservation law, the National Environmental Policy Act.

In a court filing in New York, the groups argued that the new rule from the White House Council on Environmental Quality would “eliminate environmental reviews for entire classes of projects that may have devastating cumulative or indirect impacts on people and the environment.”

“In short, the 2020 Rule requires federal agencies across the Executive Branch to stick their heads in the sand, rather than to take a ‘hard look’ at the full health and environmental consequences of their decisions,” the lawsuit states.

The groups, led by the Environmental Justice Health Alliance, also argued that the rule would cause “real, foreseeable harms” to people and communities, particularly low-income communities and communities of color since that’s where “polluting projects” are often located.

President Donald Trump in July announced regulatory changes to NEPA, a move that will speed up approval of federal projects such as mines, highways, water infrastructure and gas pipelines.

Trump said the new rule would cut down the federal permitting timeline “for a major project from up to 20 years or more … down to two years or less.”

Trump administration officials and industry advocates have argued that NEPA regulations are outdated and kill jobs, and that reviews can be costly and delay important infrastructure from being built.

“The final rule will make the NEPA process more efficient and effective, ensure consideration of environmental impacts of major projects and activities, and result in more timely decisions that support the development of modern, resilient infrastructure,” the Council on Environmental Quality chair Mary Neumayr previously said in a press release in January.

The Council on Environmental Quality told CNN it does not comment on litigation.

NEPA, signed into law in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, is considered one of the foundational environmental laws formed at the beginning of the modern environmental movement.

Trump’s rollbacks to NEPA face other legal challenges from other environmental justice and conservation groups in California and Virginia.