The Stream, January 10, 2020: Trump Proposes Major Rollbacks on Environmental Review of Infrastructure Projects

The Global Rundown

The Trump administration proposes a plan to expedite permits for major infrastructure projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline. Tucson, Arizona, directs its water utility to take steps against PFAS contamination. Homeowners along the U.S. Great Lakes grapple with rapidly changing water levels. Bulgaria’s Minister of Environment and Water is detained for questioning over ongoing water shortages in the town of Pernik. Arizona lawmakers prepare to discuss water supply during next week’s legislation. Australia orders another large evacuation as bushfires threaten the country’s southeast.

“If you receive instructions to leave, then you must leave. That is the only way to guarantee your safety.” –Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, Australia, in reference to the latest mass evacuation order as bushfires menace towns and communities in the country’s southeast. The death toll from the fires has risen to 27, and a total of 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) have burned. Reuters

In context: Circle of Blue reporting on Australia

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By The Numbers

70,000 Residents of Pernik, Bulgaria. The town has endured two months of extreme water shortages, and local officials are under investigation for mismanagement. On Thursday, Bulgaria’s Minister of Environment and Water Neno Dimov was also detained for questioning in relation to the shortages. Reuters

Science, Studies, and Reports

The U.S. Trump administration debuted plans to speed up permitting for major infrastructure projects by bypassing environmental reviews. The law would allow projects like oil pipelines, mines, and roads to undergo significantly less environmental review than currently required. President Donald Trump said the plan will “completely overhaul the dysfunctional bureaucratic system that has created these massive obstructions.” Environmental groups, however, fear the changes could jeopardize the environment and communities. The Guardian

On the Radar

Homeowners and businesses along the U.S. Great Lakes are struggling with rapidly fluctuating water levels. The lakes swung from historic lows in 2013 to record highs in 2019, a phenomenon that has disrupted infrastructure and shorelines. Forecasts predict that the lakes will be at or near record highs again this summer, pushing communities to prepare for continued extremes. Chicago Tribune

The Tucson City Council has instructed its water utility to begin designing a treatment plants to remove PFAS contaminants from the city’s supply. The system will work to filter PFAS from groundwater before it reaches crucial parts of the city’s aquifer. It is currently unclear how much the system will cost or how it will be funded. Arizona Daily Star

Also in Arizona, lawmakers plan to prioritize water supply as an issue for a legislative session starting next week. Both Republican and Democratic leaders have expressed recent concerns with groundwater depletion in the state’s rural areas. Associated Press

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