Indiana is no stranger to road construction. Whether it’s the Interstate 65/70 project in downtown Indianapolis or the I-69 project running through southwest Indiana, Hoosiers are accustomed to roads expanding through residential areas.
For the last 50 years, Americans have had a say in how these projects impacted their neighborhoods through the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Signed into law in 1970, NEPA has since mandated environmental impact statements for major infrastructure and similar projects across the country.
Not much about NEPA has changed since President Richard Nixon signed it into law on Jan. 1, 1970, kicking off what’s been dubbed the “decade of the environment.” But because NEPA has not evolved much in the ensuing decades, the administration of President Donald Trump began a review of the statute in 2017, culminating in a final rule set to take effect Friday.
Describing NEPA as “mountains and mountains of red tape,” Trump has said the final rule makes revisions designed to streamline the environmental review process. That, in turn, will help infrastructure projects proceed faster, which the president says will have economic benefits.
But environmental groups and lawyers have concerns. While a modernization of NEPA was necessary, they worry the “streamlined” process could lead to cutting environmental corners.
Legal challenges have already been filed to stop implementation of the new rule. And with a hotly contested election mere months away, the fate of the Trump administration revisions is uncertain.