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Photo: projectnepa.org via Friends of the Mississippi River
A government watchdog report issued yesterday found that the Trump administration has been “systematically underestimating the damage caused by carbon pollution, slashing figures used under the Obama administration to weigh the impacts” of regulations to curb emissions, according to The Hill. And late yesterday, The Washington Post reported that Trump will finalize and implement his proposal to fundamentally weaken the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a bedrock environmental law, to minimize the review of the pollution and other environmental impacts caused by the government building or even permitting of highways, pipelines, military operations, and other major actions that create environmental harms and risks.
Why This Matters:Why This Matters: These changes will make it easier to relax rules on carbon pollution and will result in more damaging environmental projects undertaken by the government. Cost/benefit analysis had long been a tool used to block environmental health and safety measures because the costs to industry generally were easy to calculate while the benefits were not always quantifiable. But increasingly we can calculate the huge benefits of these environmental protections in terms of avoided health care costs and lost workdays, etc. So now the Trump Administration is “cooking the books” in order to further its anti-environmental agenda.
NEPA Reviews Expected to be Severely Limited Going Forward
The Trump Administration first proposed to gut the NEPA’s requirement for environmental reviews back in January – and if the final version mirrors the initial proposal, it would mean that major new U.S. projects like highways and pipelines will no longer require federal reviews of their environmental climate impact. As we reported at the time, it would also essentially allow private parties hired by the government to build highways or pipelines to do a self-assessment to determine whether an analysis of the environmental impacts is needed at all, and it would limit the scope of projects that would trigger stringent environmental reviews called environmental impact studies, as well as expand the number of project categories that can be excluded from NEPA reviews altogether.
Cutting Benefits By The Numbers
The report comes from the General Accounting Office, which undertook this review at the request of numerous Democratic Members of Congress after the White House in 2017 disbanded the group of federal agencies that determined what assumptions to use in making these important calculations in order to direct the change in policy by Executive Order without further discussion. What changed? GAO found that when the Obama Administration did the calculations they had certain assumptions that were based on Office of Management and Budget guidelines, but the Trump Administration used 2 different key assumptions and as a result, they estimated the benefits to be 7 times lower than the Obama Administration in constant dollars. Both the prior and current estimates were calculated using the same economic models. Trump, however, used “(1) domestic rather than global climate change damages (see table) and (2) different discount rates (3 and 7 percent rather than 2.5, 3, and 5 percent).”
The most progressive corporate commitments this week involve nature-based mitigation and pushing sustainability out into their supply chains. Walmart pledged to do some big things, including achieving zero emissions by 2040 without carbon offsets, committing to protect and restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030, and promising zero waste in the US, Canada, and Japan by 2025.
Why This Matters: Nature-based solutions have until now been seen as greenwashing. But these new commitments go much farther.
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Contributing Writer A 1000-foot stretch highway in Oroville, CA was recently repaved with recycled plastic and asphalt—the first time a state department has paved a road with 100% recycled materials. This durable recycled material can combat potholes, last two to three times longer than asphalt roads, and reuse about 150,000 single-use […]
Why This Matters: The report is another loudly ringing alarm bell that our current path is unsustainable — and we need to make a huge shift away from “business as usual” across a range of human activities.
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