Green group to sue over Trump order to waive environmental rules for projects

Ben Lefebvre

The Center for Biological Diversity on Tuesday said it will sue the Trump administration over its executive order directing officials to waive environmental reviews for new infrastructure projects.

In a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, the Interior Department and other agencies, the environmental group said the executive order issued last week violated the Endangered Species Act, which bars individuals from soliciting others to commit prohibited acts that harm endangered wildlife or plants. It would be the latest lawsuit to challenge the administration’s attempts to approve projects sought by energy companies but opposed by environmental groups.

“Your Executive Order, however, cynically exploits the COVID-19 pandemic by instructing all federal agencies and employees to unlawfully approve infrastructure and other projects, even if this causes grievous harm to our nation’s most imperiled wildlife and plants,” CBD said in its letter. “In doing so, you are soliciting the executive branch to ignore or otherwise violate the critical safeguards that the Endangered Species Act affords our nation’s endangered and threatened species.”

A White House spokesperson did not immediately offer comment.

Trump’s order, which he said was necessary to boost a U.S. economy now in recession because of the shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic, directed the Interior Department and other agencies to waive environmental laws and speed permitting of highways and energy infrastructure projects.