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White House proposes dramatic overhaul of environmental approval process

WASHINGTON — The White House is promising sweeping changes to how major energy and infrastructure projects in the United States are evaluated for their potential environmental impact.

U.S. President Donald Trump says the planned overhaul of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, will streamline environmental approvals for major construction efforts like highways, airports, pipelines and power plants.

Trump did not specifically mention the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, but he has previously expressed support for the contentious, Canadian-led energy link between Alberta and the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The plan to extend and expand the existing Keystone pipeline network was effectively mothballed by the Obama administration in 2014, gradually becoming a cross-border flashpoint for the escalating climate change clash between environmentalists and the energy industry.

Trump twice signed approvals aimed at clearing the way for the project to proceed, once in 2017 and again in 2019, but it has been held up by various state court challenges and injunctions ever since.

Oil and gas advocates and trade unions alike have long cited the U.S. law as a cumbersome barrier to development; the proposed changes would dramatically shorten the list of projects requiring review and impose rigid timelines on assessments.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 9, 2020.

— Follow James McCarten on Twitter @CdnPressStyle

 

The Canadian Press