The White House’s efforts to amend the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) regulations is one of many significant items that threaten to slip by under the radar. The Council on Environmental Quality, the federal agency responsible for implementing NEPA, is part of the Executive Office of the White House, so these are proposed White House regulations.
The Hill has come out with at least two articles already, one mentioning that Arizona Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva is looking into federal legislation that would offer some environmental justice protections for economically disadvantaged and minority communities to mitigate the impacts of the proposed NEPA rule changes; and the other stating that the White House proposal is so bad, that there is already bipartisan congressional opposition to it:
While the media focus so far has been on the dropping the consideration of climate change impacts, as well as the potential impact on poor and minority communities, the fact is that the White House proposal represents a brazen attack on public participation in environmental decision-making. NEPA is a federal law that requires federal agencies to follow a certain process in making decisions; it does not dictate the outcome of the decision-making process. So the proposed regulations represent a brazen attack on the public’s right to participate in that process.
Comments on the proposed rulemaking are due by March 10. To submit comments online, use the Federal eRulemaking Portal. All comments must include the agency name, Council on Environmental Quality, and the docket number CEQ-2019-003. All comments will be posted online without change, including any personal information provided, so do not submit any information that you want kept private.
NEPA should be updated, but Trump’s proposal is an outrage, gutting public participation in environmental decision-making.
Section 101 of NEPA contains some of the most beautiful language ever written into the law, calling upon the Federal Government to “foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.”
In paragraph(c) of Section 101, Congress recognized “that each person should enjoy a healthful environment and that each person has a responsibility to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the environment.”
Each person can fulfill that responsibility by participating in environmental decision-making.
Following on NEPA, all of our bedrock environmental laws contain strong public participation requirements, including rights to public notice, public comment, public meetings and hearings, and public appeals processes.
Trump’s attack on NEPA strikes at the very heart and soul of all of our environmental laws.
If Trump succeeds in undermining NEPA, we should expect similar attacks on the public participation requirements of all of our environmental laws.