President Donald Trump cited the new bridge over Oregon Inlet while announcing plans Thursday to reduce federal review on such projects.
Regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act would be streamlined and approval times shortened, Trump said in a press conference.
“From day one, my administration has made fixing this regulatory nightmare a top priority,” he said, according to an online copy of his remarks provide by the White House. “And we want to build new roads, bridges, tunnels, highways bigger, better, faster, and we want to build them at less cost.”
Dare County Board of Commissioners chairman Bob Woodard attended the news conference after receiving an invitation from the White House.
The president is not trying to shortchange environmental oversight, Woodard said later by phone.
“He said there is too much checking of the checker of the checker, and he’s right,” Woodard said. “I applaud his vision and applaud his dedication to streamline the process. I hope the proposed new rule will allow more timely construction of much-needed projects.”
Trump said during his remarks that it took 25 years to get approval to build the Marc Basnight Bridge over Oregon Inlet. He called NEPA an "outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process.”
NEPA was passed 50 years ago during the Nixon administration.
As one of the more high-profile changes, federal agencies would no longer have to consider long-term effects of climate change, but instead would look at direct impacts and those that are “reasonably foreseeable."
Opposing groups are expected to challenge the changes in the law, according to media reports.
The Basnight Bridge was not delayed by federal permitting, said Kym Hunter, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. Cost and politics were the biggest factors that held up construction, she said.
Hunter said she has reviewed the modifications announced by the Trump administration.
“There is nothing in there that I see that would have made a difference on the Bonner Bridge,” she said.
Hunter noted that in litigation settled last year, the North Carolina Department of Transportation agreed to consider possible effects on climate change before building roads and buildings. Among the considerations are emissions from construction equipment. The state will also try to reduce vehicle miles traveled and emissions, according to a news release on the settlement.
The original Bonner Bridge was built over the inlet in 1963 with a lifespan projected at 30 years in the harsh Outer Banks environment. The North Carolina Department of Transportation spent millions repairing the old structure in the last two decades. A new bridge was proposed more than 20 years ago to replace the aging span.
The new Basnight Bridge was finished early last year after three years of construction with a projected lifespan of 100 years.
Jeff Hampton, 252-491-5272, email@example.com