State attorneys general are working to ensure that the Trump administration is not allowed to waive critical project reviews for energy infrastructure projects based on the coronavirus pandemic.
Advocacy at the Federal Level
In May 2020, a coalition of eleven attorneys general led by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh sent a letter to FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee urging him to declare a moratorium on approvals of all new and pending natural gas pipelines, LNG export facilities, and related fossil fuel infrastructure projects until the end of the COVID-19 crisis. In their letter, the coalition highlighted the need to preserve the due process rights of interested stakeholders, given that many are dealing with unprecedented health and economic challenges and may be unable to participate in hearings and proceedings. The attorneys general also noted that dealing with the effects of the pandemic is the top priority of individuals, communities, and state and local governments, and urged FERC to acknowledge this and modify its practices accordingly.
In June 2020, President Trump signed an Executive Order instructing federal agencies to rely on emergency authorities to waive environmental reviews and to expedite approvals for major infrastructure projects such as pipelines, energy projects on public lands, and highways. By allowing agencies to sidestep environmental analysis and ignore public input, the order disregarded the legal obligations to adhere to environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act when approving infrastructure projects. In response to the order, Maryland Attorney General Frosh released a statement criticizing the administration for favoring corporate interests and jeopardizing the environment and the health of communities, particularly communities of color and low-income communities.