Nessel, AGs push back on Trump environmental cutbacks

    President Donald J. Trump addresses his remarks to the Economic Club of New York Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York. | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead via Flickr Public Domain

    Along with the attorneys general of 13 other states and the District of Columbia, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined a coalition urging President Donald Trump to rescind an order that accelerates infrastructure projects without full environmental scrutiny.

    The executive order allows federal agencies to adopt emergency regulations that hasten the environmental review process for infrastructure projects under a number of environmental laws. Signed by Trump on June 4, it cites the national economic impacts of COVID-19 as a primary reason for needing to expedite projects that have the potential to have environmental impacts.  

    Dana Nessel | Ken Coleman

    In their June 29 letter to Trump, the attorneys general argue that the executive order incorrectly invokes emergency regulations. They state that those regulations are meant only to provide a swift federal response to emergencies that pose imminent threats to public health and property, not speed through infrastructure projects in order to facilitate the country’s economy. 

    “Our nation’s environmental laws are meant to protect our citizens and natural resources from irreparable harm, and this administration has consistently shown a lack of concern for either,” Nessel said in a statement last week.

    “While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted a wide variety of industries and our national economy, allowing agencies to sidestep full environmental review of projects to boost that investment jeopardizes the health of our environment and is a disservice to future generations of Michigan residents.” 

    If Trump does not withdraw his executive order, the attorneys general urge him to at least require federal agencies to disclose how projects are being selected for the emergency treatment, disclose which are chosen and provide for a public comment process on those.

    Dems: Trump’s environmental rollbacks harm communities of color

    The letter also notes that low-income and minority communities are disproportionately affected by large infrastructure projects with environmental ramifications.

    The coalition also includes those from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. 

    Laina G. Stebbins
    Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).