President Donald Trump has signed a new executive order which he says is intended to make more efficient the federal permitting process for construction of transportation, water and other infrastructure projects without harming the environment.
White House officials said Trump’s order includes revoking an earlier executive order signed by President Barack Obama concerning projects constructed in flood plains.
At a press conference in Trump Tower in New York City, Trump demonstrated flow charts showing the existing regulatory complexity, and how his administration will simplify the process and make it possible for approvals to be completed within a couple of years, rather than decades.
As an example, an executive order under the Obama administration required that projects built with federal aid take rising sea levels into account.
The Associated Press reports that building trade groups had urged Trump to revoke the flood plain order, saying it was overly bureaucratic and increased the cost of projects.
The Obama order was especially unwieldy because it didn’t standardize across the government how sea level rise was to be taken into account, which left each federal agency to come up with its own standards, said Jimmy Christianson, an attorney with the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America.
Trump said projects will still be subjected to environmental safeguards.
“It’s going to be quick, it’s going to be a very streamlined process,” he said. “And by the way, if it doesn’t meet environmental safeguards, we’re not going to approve it. Very simple. We’re not going to approve it.”
Shannon Eggleston, the American Association of State, Highway and Transportation Officials’ program director for environment, said in the AP report that there is still room to make adjustments to the processes for complying with laws protecting endangered species and air quality that won’t hurt the environment.
While Trump called the news conference to discuss infrastructure issues, media questions almost exclusively focused on race relations and the confrontation in Charlottesville, VA that resulted in three deaths. The backlash, in part from his remarks at the news conference, resulted in the disbanding of two business advisory councils.