Action Overview

Comment and contact agencies to stop Trumps attack on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

We urgently need everyone to comment on the Trump administration’s blatant and devastating attack on one of our most fundamental environmental laws – the 50 year old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Since 1969, NEPA has required the federal government to go through a thorough review process before initiating major projects on federal land, including: oil drilling, mineral extraction, logging, road building, grazing, pesticide use and major construction (e.g., building a wall along the Mexican border). The Sierra Club says, “NEPA is the most powerful tool we have to protect our environment and keep corporations from running roughshod over our communities.”

The changes proposed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) are, in their words “to facilitate more efficient, effective, and timely NEPA reviews”, but are in fact an industry-supported, wholesale gutting of the nation’s most successful environmental law. The new rule limits how the public can provide input on proposed projects and weakens the required scientific review. It creates arbitrarily short deadlines, redefines the definition of projects requiring NEPA review, and redefines the types of impacts federal agencies must look at. These changes would shut out the public from the decision-making process, suppress climate science, and make it easier for corporate polluters to drill on public lands, build fossil fuel pipelines, and allow other major polluting projects – all without environmental review.

Take Action

The proposed rule is open for comment on the Federal Register until March 10, 2020. Make your comments using this link. You can reference the suggested script below.

We also strongly encourage you to copy your comments and mail them to the CEQ as well as to as many of the following agencies as you can – or call and leave them a message. You can also send your comments to your representatives in Congress.

CEQ Chairwoman Mary B. Neumayr
Council on Environmental Quality
730 Jackson Place NW
Washington, DC 20503
(202) 395-5750

Administrator Andrew Wheeler
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 564-4700

Secretary David Bernhardt
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
(202) 208-3100

Secretary Dan Brouillette
Department of Energy
1200 First St. NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 535-2600

Sample Script

As always, feel free to modify and put into your own words.

I am strongly opposed to any proposed rule changes that weaken NEPA. This law is one of our fundamental environmental protections, which has been in place and has worked well for 50 years. The current proposal would endanger the public by allowing more pollution, with no accounting for cumulative impacts or consideration of impacts on climate change. Environmental reviews should be fair and deliberate, taking into account all potential impacts and using good science. The public, and particularly communities most impacted by pollution and the climate crisis, must be allowed a meaningful opportunity to provide input.

Furthermore, polluters must not be allowed to pick their own contractors to do environmental assessments. These should be done by federal agencies or third-party contractors who have an arm’s length relationship with the project owners to prevent any conflict of interest.

Americans deserve to have their voices heard before their clean air and water, their environment, and their children’s health are put at risk. I urge you to drop this misguided assault on democracy and environmental protection and keep NEPA intact.

Background

On the 50th anniversary of one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws, the Trump administration is attacking the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA is sometimes called the “Magna Carta” of environmental protections. Congress passed the Act nearly unanimously, and it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on Jan. 1, 1970. NEPA gives the public a voice in government decision-making and ensures that federal agencies take a hard look at potential environmental harms before making decisions. The law has served as the model for conducting environmental reviews for more than 100 countries and dozens of U.S. states and localities, including being a model for California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

NEPA requires the federal government to assess the environmental impacts of certain proposed actions (such as drilling or logging on public lands) and has given the American people the power to participate in decision making and speak out against federal projects – like oil and gas pipelines and other risky fossil fuel developments. NEPA provides transparency by requiring that draft reviews be publicly disclosed and open for public comment. The final environmental reviews can be challenged in court, allowing for accountability.

Catastrophes can result when a federal agency exempts a project from environmental review. The Interior Department excluded the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig from an in-depth environmental review under the premise that it would not result in significant harm. In 2010, the oil rig exploded when the blowout preventer failed, killing 11 people and causing the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

On January 9, 2020 the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a proposed rule, “Update to the Regulations Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act”. CEQ proposes removing the requirement to analyze cumulative impacts and would make changes to key definitions in NEPA like “major federal action,” “effects,” and “reasonable alternatives.” Under the proposed rules, federal agencies could ignore whether a project’s greenhouse gas emissions would worsen climate change. The new rules would also eliminate consideration of cumulative impacts, such as damage to public lands and wildlife from fossil fuel extraction. Oil and gas pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure would escape meaningful environmental analysis, with, for example, no consideration of harm to animals like marine mammals from drilling rigs and other projects.

The proposal would give this anti-environment, anti-science administration free rein to hide the environmental and health impacts of dangerous federal projects, while silencing the American people – especially frontline communities most impacted by climate change. It would push us closer to climate catastrophe – mortgaging our children’s future security and the habitability of our planet for short-term polluter profits.

Additional Resources

The following are a few links to several articles on the importance of preserving NEPA:

Many environmental organizations, both national and local, are speaking out against this attack and have online comment letters you can also sign on to. They include:

  • The Sierra Club
  • NRDC
  • Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Audubon Society
  • Friends of the Earth