White House CEQ’s newest administrative rollbacks to NEPA could fundamentally reshape the federal environmental review process

WASHINGTON, DC (June 20, 2018) – The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) today announced in an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking a roadmap to severely undermine the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), jeopardizing our environment, public health, and building new barriers to public participation in government decision-making.  

The organizations named below issued the following statement in response:   

CEQ’s outrageously short 30-day public comment period is no less emblematic of the Trump administration’s effort to silence the people and chill public participation. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) applies to every major federal action the government takes and this process has the potential to impact every person in America on a scale that eclipses tax reform. A paltry 30-day comment period is reflective of this administration’s unwillingness to meaningfully engage with the American people.  

Like the legislative attacks we have seen in Congress, the Trump administration’s decision today to start the process of administratively rolling back environmental reviews is a thinly veiled attempt to rubber stamp permits for corporate polluters and resurrect a “those in power know best” culture of secrecy that harkens back to the 1950s and 1960s, a time when inner cities across the country were paved over by new interstate highways without any regard for the local communities that lived there.  

NEPA is one of the most impactful and far-reaching laws ever passed. By requiring federal agencies and project sponsors to engage in a review process to discover any significant environmental and public health impacts during the planning process, NEPA empowers local communities to protect themselves and their environment from dangerous, rushed, or poorly planned federal projects. 

The net impact CEQ’s rulemaking process will likely be to severely restrict public input in government decision-making, limit any consideration of project alternatives, and impose hard deadlines for the approval of projects like nuclear power plants – regardless of their size, complexity, or degree of public controversy.  

In an effort to justify this rollback to the NEPA process, President Trump and opponents in Congress continue to peddle the pervasively false narrative that environmental reviews are a major barrier to project completion. That couldn’t be further from the truth. On the contrary, environmental reviews improve public health, save taxpayer money, and ensure federal projects are built to last for the benefit of local communities.  

Rolling back the NEPA process would especially impact low-income, minority, and rural communities, which are already disproportionately exposed to pollution and toxins on the job, at school, and in their homes. For these communities, NEPA is often the only way they are able to weigh in on projects impacting their health, environment, and economic livelihoods. 

History teaches us that shortcutting environmental reviews will invariably lead to disaster – the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which was inappropriately excluded from environmental review is a chilling example. 

Any law that provides broad opportunities for public participation in government decisions that affect the environment and local communities shouldn’t be rolled back, it should be embraced. 

Animal Welfare Institute, Bark, Cascadia Wildlands, Citizens for a Healthy Community, Clean Water Action, Earthjustice, Environmental Protection Information Center, Food & Water Watch, Geos Institute, Greenpeace, Hispanic Federation, In the Public Interest, Klamath Forest Alliance, Moving Forward Network, National Wildlife Refuge Association, New Mexico Sportsmen, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy, Ocean Conservation Research, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Save EPA, Seven Circles Foundation, Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, Umpqua Watersheds, Inc., WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Western Environmental Law Center, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, The Wilderness Society, Wilderness Workshop

Contact: Justin McCarthy, jmccarthy@partnershipproject.org, (540) 312-3797

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