Trump moves to exempt big projects from environmental review

The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled a plan to speed permitting for major infrastructure projects like oil pipelines, road expansions and bridges, one of the biggest deregulatory actions of the president's tenure.

UNITED STATES (REUTERS) - "Since day one, my administration has made fixing this regulatory nightmare a top priority," said US President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration on Thursday (Jan 9) unveiled a sweeping plan to speed up approval for major infrastructure projects by re-writing regulations meant to protect the environment.

The proposal marks the first overhaul in four decades of the National Environmental Policy Act - a law aimed at ensuring the government protects the environment when reviewing or making decisions about major projects.

"We want to build new roads, bridges and highways - bigger better and faster," said Mr Trump.

The proposal would put one federal agency in charge of overseeing the review process. It's part of a larger effort by President Trump to cut regulatory red tape as industry groups complain about bureaucratic delays that stall projects.

But environmental groups warn that the plan would remove a powerful tool to protect against climate change, and one that communities use to have a say about the projects built their neighborhoods.

"I want clean air and clean water," said Mr Trump. "I also want jobs, though."

The proposed rule would mean federal agencies would not need to factor in the "cumulative impacts" of a project, making it easier for major fossil fuel projects to sail through the approval process and avoid legal challenges.

It would also set a two-year deadline for environmental impact studies and a one-year deadline for environmental assessments.