KEY POINTS

  • The Trump administration plans to boost economic recovery through infrastructure projects
  • To fast-track projects, Trump is set to sign an executive order directing federal agencies to find ways to bypass environmental reviews
  • The U.S. unemployment rate has hit historic highs, while job opportunities plummeted due to the COVID-19 pandemic

President Donald Trump plans to boost the U.S. economy by waiving environmental reviews and fast-tracking infrastructure projects.

Trump is expected to sign an executive order that would direct federal agencies to find ways to allow construction projects to commence without the need for clearance under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. unemployment rate has hit historic highs, while job opportunities plummeted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Factories and retail outlets were forced to shut down as the country went into a lockdown and only essential workers were allowed to go out. Several businesses, including theaters and entertainment centers also closed down, unable to keep up with operational costs as sales dwindled.

In January, President Trump announced his intention to streamline project approval by deregulating processes, proposing to lessen federal review. This will involve projects on highways, bridges and roads, while also allowing the speedy approval of the often-controversial oil pipelines.

If the executive order is signed, it will not be the first move to waive environmental reviews under the Trump administration. In February 2019, Homeland Security issued a waiver for the immediate reinforcement of a border barrier in San Diego, California. A waiver was also issued in January 2018 for a border wall project in New Mexico.

The NEPA, passed in 1969, ensured that all branches of the government will review major infrastructure projects -- airports, buildings, military complexes, highways, parkland purchases, and other proposed federal activities -- and subject them to Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements.

While the law has been criticized as outdated, administration critics say that completely bypassing it while there are no current alternatives will only worsen the U.S.'s impact on climate change. Climate activists particularly worry that waiving said reviews would allow for major fossil fuel projects to start operations without taking environmental safety measures.

US President Donald Trump is overweight but healthy, his doctor says US President Donald Trump is overweight but healthy, his doctor says Photo: AFP / MANDEL NGAN