U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Rotunda of the Utah State Capitol on December 4, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled significant changes to the nation's landmark environmental law that would make it easier for federal agencies to approve construction projects without considering climate change.
Many of the White House's proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act have been supported by business groups that contend the law has delayed or blocked projects like laying out pipelines and building dams and mines, among other things.
Environmentalists said that the rules would endanger wildlife and lead to more carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, and contend that the regulations should be strengthened not weakened as the world copes with global warming.
"The step we're taking today, which will ultimately lead to final regulations, I believe will hit a home run in delivering better results to the American people by cutting red tape that has paralyzed common sense decision making for a generation," Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said Thursday.
The act's regulations have not been updated in more than 40 years. The White House proposal would no longer require any form of federal environmental review of construction projects that lack substantial government funding.
Native Americans march to a burial ground sacred site that was disturbed by bulldozers during building of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), near the encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the oil pipeline, September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images
Trump has argued that the law can "increase costs, derail important projects, and threaten jobs for American workers and labor union members."
The move is the latest effort by the Trump administration to roll back a slew of environmental regulations in place to curb greenhouse gas emissions and protect natural habitats from drilling and development.
Bruce Huber, an environmental law professor at Notre Dame Law School, said the proposed changes will require an act from Congress and might not make it through court.
"The law requires federal agencies to report the environmental impacts of their actions that significantly affect 'the quality of the human environment,'" he said. "If the regulations announced today drive agencies to diminish the extent or quality of their reporting, federal courts may very well conclude that their reports do not comply with the law."