Trump Guts Bedrock Federal Environmental Law at the Expense of Black and Brown America

Washington, D.C. – Today, President Donald Trump gave fossil fuel CEOs another gift with the announcement that his administration will gut the National Environmental Policy Act, a bedrock environmental law that guaranteed communities of color have a say before pipelines pollute their neighborhoods.

Trump made today’s announcement in Georgia, a state where an overwhelming majority of residents – 59 percent – believe President Trump should do more to address climate change. Nationally, voters – especially young and Latinx voters – want their leaders to take bold climate action – not gut protections that undermine environmental justice and silence Black and Brown voices.

Trump’s message is clear: He doesn’t care how many Americans suffer, so long as his political allies stay happy.

“Donald Trump continues writing blank checks to his wealthy political donors, with no regard for the communities who will pay the ultimate price: Communities of color who already live with dirtier air and water due to decades of environmental racism. On day one, Trump handed over his environmental policies to fossil fuel lobbyists, so it’s no surprise he repeatedly chooses oil, gas and coal CEOs and lines their pockets,” said Climate Power 2020 Executive Director Lori Lodes. “With Trump, it’s always polluters first – clean air and water for our families last.”

For decades, communities of color have depended on NEPA to turn back environmentally harmful projects and protect clean air and water for their families. Black and Latino individuals are already exposed to significantly more air pollution than their white counterparts. Unsurprisingly, Trump continues to ignore science, political realities, and communities of color. He doubled down on his pro-pollution agenda, a move that will undoubtedly backfire with Americans who urgently want to see climate action.

Below are examples of times Americans successfully sued under these environmental protections to protect their communities: 

  • In July 2020, a federal court ruled the U.S. government failed to adhere to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires critical environmental review and opportunities for public input when issuing a key permit for the Dakota Access pipeline. The court found the Army Corps of Engineers failed to produce a necessary environmental impact statement for the pipeline, and ordered the project to be shut down pending a thorough environmental review. 
  • In November 2018, a federal judge ruled the State Department’s analysis of potential environmental effects arising from the Keystone XL pipeline failed to satisfy the government’s obligations under NEPA. Specifically, the State Department ignored the crucial issues of climate change impacts when advancing the project. Construction on the pipeline was blocked pending the completion of new environmental reviews.

In December 2018, a federal court ruled the U.S. Forest Service shirked its responsibilities under NEPA by not considering alternative routes for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline during the permitting process.  The court ordered the Forest Service to vacate and reconsider permits for the pipeline. In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a separate legal challenge to the pipeline’s route through the Appalachian Trail, and a month later, Dominion and Duke Energy announced the cancellation of the project due to “legal uncertainty.”