A new lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity demands that the Environmental Protection Agency release “any and all records” in connection with the recent changes to the EPA environmental review rating process, namely the sudden elimination of issuing public grades on environmental reviews.
The EPA is calling the process of environmental grading “antiquated” and believes that by eliminating them it will simplify the federal permitting process. The grades were ended last October by Brittany Bolen, a former staffer for Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and a political appointee at the EPA Office of Policy.
The practice of using letter grades on environmental-impact statements on infrastructure projects has been around since the Reagan administration. The process is part of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 when Congress gave the EPA additional oversight and required that environmental impacts be considered in federal decision-making.
Although many have raised questions as to how policymakers and citizens would be able to easily spot problems with projects without having a letter grade, Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the EPA says he’s “not concerned” and that the “public will be better served by a more thorough review and better information.”
“This is like a student hiding his report card because it’s full of Fs,” said Paulo Lopes, a public lands policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Trump administration wants to conceal its systematic efforts to dismantle environmental safeguards. Officials are rubber-stamping polluting projects, regardless of the damage. The public deserves to know why the EPA secretly abandoned this critical oversight tool.”
Previous projects that have received failing or inadequate grades include the Keystone XL Pipeline, the PolyMet Copper Mine in Minnesota, and the Rosemont mine in Arizona.
The Center for Biological Diversity has previously requested the documents relating to the EPA’s decision to abandon the letter grades last December but Trump administration failed to comply.