WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed rolling back enforcement of a landmark environmental law, reducing federal oversight of many major projects, from pipelines to commercial development, to speed the approval process.

He said the United States cannot compete “if a bureaucratic system holds us back from building what we need.”

Trump outlined the proposed overhaul of the half-century old National Environmental Policy Act at the White House. That law changed environmental oversight in the country by requiring federal agencies to consider the impact of major building projects on the land and on wildlife.

He called the law “big government at its absolute worst” and said the changes would speed up the process of approving projects that received major federal funding.

Anne Bradbury, head of an independent oil and gas producers trade group, said among the proposed changes are ones that will hasten the permitting of oil projects, including pipelines, on federal lands. The Trump administration has pushed hard for pipeline building to move ahead despite local challenges, along with calling for shortening the time and length of environmental reviews for projects.

Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups say the changes will exempt polluters from public scrutiny of their projects.

President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act into law on Jan. 1, 1970, as public outrage over the 1969 oil spill off Santa Barbara, California, and other pollution of the country’s air, water and land spurred creation of the country’s major environmental protections.

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