Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 9, 2020


Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

Lawsuit Seeks Documents on President Trump’s Order ‘Expediting’ Fossil Fuel Project Approvals

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration today to get public records showing how federal agencies are implementing President Trump’s order to waive environmental laws to fast-track oil and gas drilling, fossil fuel pipelines and other projects across the country.

The president’s June 4 executive order required all federal agencies to invoke their emergency authority to bypass the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws to approve projects as fast as possible.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeks records from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

“The Trump administration is running roughshod over every environmental safeguard, with no accountability or transparency,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. “We need to know which projects are being approved and what damage is being done. Too many frontline communities are suffering the twin dangers of COVID-19 and pollution, made worse by an administration run amok.”

President Trump’s order also directed each federal agency to identify projects they could approve within 30 days, regardless of potential harm to people or the environment. To date no federal agency has released its report to the public, making it impossible to determine the executive order’s damage.

In June the Center sought information under the Freedom of Information Act from every federal agency involved in the approval of infrastructure projects. Since then, not a single federal agency has provided a single document in response to the Center’s request.

Federal agencies are given emergency powers to respond quickly to specific events, such as natural disasters. In the 50 years since the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act, this emergency power has been invoked 47 times.

Likewise, a project can be approved rapidly under the Endangered Species Act, such as when the Federal Emergency Management Agency requested permission to quickly build field hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients. However, the Endangered Species Act does not contemplate that agencies would rush projects through that have no connection to the underlying emergency.

President Trump’s order allows any project to be approved anywhere in the country based on the pretext of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ll uncover the damage the Trump administration has wrought with this egregious abuse of power, and we’ll hold federal officials accountable in court,” said Hartl.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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