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Kaul joins call for withdrawal of loosened environmental review of infrastructure projects

Attorney General Josh Kaul has joined a coalition of state attorneys general calling for President Donald Trump to withdraw an executive order that allows federal agencies to avoid full compliance with environmental laws on infrastructure projects.

On June 4, Trump signed Executive Order 13927: Accelerating the Nation’s Economic Recovery From the COVID-19 Emergency by Expediting Infrastructure Investments and Other Activities. The order instructs federal agencies to use their emergency authority to bypass the environmental reviews and permitting requirements called for by the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act to help the U.S. economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a letter the attorneys general issued on Monday.

In the letter, the attorneys general argue the emergency regulations can’t be invoked to bypass environmental review in response to a general downturn in the national economy. The regulations have been used in the past to respond to hurricanes, oil spills and other physical emergencies.

“Broad, nationwide use of these emergency exceptions ‘to facilitate the Nation’s economic recovery’ from a global, months-long pandemic is plainly unlawful and risks further harming the very communities that are already disproportionately affected by the virus and other environmental risks,” the letter said.

If the president refuses to withdraw the order, the attorneys general are asking him to at least require all federal agencies to explain how they’re selecting projects for emergency treatment, publish lists of which projects are receiving that treatment and allow for public comment.

Kaul joined the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia in signing the letter.

About Michaela Paukner, mpaukner@wislawjournal.com

Michaela Paukner is the legal reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal. She can be reached at (414) 225-1825 or by email at mpaukner@wislawjournal.com.

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