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Press Release AG Healey Calls on President Trump to Withdraw Illegal Order That Ignores Environmental Protections and Community Input for New Infrastructure Projects

For immediate release:
6/29/2020
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey

Media Contact for AG Healey Calls on President Trump to Withdraw Illegal Order That Ignores Environmental Protections and Community Input for New Infrastructure Projects

Chloe Gotsis

BOSTONMassachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today co-led a coalition of 16 attorneys general calling on President Trump to withdraw a controversial Executive Order that unlawfully instructs federal agencies to use narrow emergency authority to avoid full compliance with environmental laws when approving infrastructure projects.

On June 4, under the guise of promoting “economic recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump issued a sweeping executive order aimed at evading environmental review requirements for major projects across the country. The order directs federal officials to use emergency regulations to speed environmental reviews and permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act, the federal Endangered Species Act, and the federal Clean Water Act, for projects like pipelines and other energy projects, and highways.

“It’s deeply disturbing that in the middle of an unprecedented public health crisis that’s disparately impacting our Black, Brown, and immigrant families, President Trump is putting these communities at even greater risk,” AG Healey said. “We cannot ignore the critical environmental protections and public engagement process that are needed for new infrastructure projects, especially since they disproportionately impact our environmental justice communities. This harmful and illegal order must be withdrawn immediately.”

In a letter sent to President Trump today, the coalition argues that the emergency regulations are narrowly tailored to allow the federal government to quickly respond to particular emergencies that pose an imminent threat to public health and welfare, such as landslides, hurricanes, and oil spills. Under the Executive Order, agencies would broadly invoke these procedures to bypass environmental review based on the downturn in the national economy, expanding them beyond all recognition, gutting our bedrock environmental laws, and putting our communities at further risk. 

At a minimum, the attorneys general argue, the president should require that all federal agencies publish how they are selecting projects for emergency treatment; publish which projects receive that treatment; and allow for public comment on these projects.

The coalition’s letter also emphasizes that large infrastructure projects with significant environmental impacts are commonly located in low-income and communities of color. These same communities, the letter notes, are being disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis, and removing protective measures guaranteed to them by environmental laws would only burden them more.

In May, AG Healey issued a brief on the environmental factors, including elevated exposure to air pollution, that compound the COVID-19 pandemic’s disparate impact on communities of color in Massachusetts, and the steps the state should take to address the longstanding impact of environmental injustice on the state’s families.

AG Healey has long championed the importance of federal environmental laws requiring careful review of major infrastructure projects and other major federal actions and fought the Trump Administration’s efforts to weaken those laws. For example, in March, AG Healey joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general in calling on the Trump Administration to abandon its proposed rule gutting the National Environmental Policy Act.

Joining AG Healey, AG Frosh and AG Becerra in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. 

Handing this matter for Massachusetts are Assistant Attorneys General Turner Smith and Matthew Ireland of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division.

 

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Media Contact for AG Healey Calls on President Trump to Withdraw Illegal Order That Ignores Environmental Protections and Community Input for New Infrastructure Projects

Office of Attorney General Maura Healey 

Attorney General Maura Healey is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
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