Western Resource Advocates is urging the public to weigh in on the Trump administration’s destructive proposal to gut our nation’s foundational environmental law and disregard climate change considerations when evaluating major projects across federal agencies. The public has until Tuesday, March 10, to submit comments to the Council on Environmental Quality. Comments can be submitted here.
The proposed changes, unveiled by the Trump administration on January 9, would drastically undermine the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by significantly reducing the number and types of projects subject to environmental review and ignoring the climate impacts of potential projects. This would clear the way for new pipelines, mines, roads, and other development projects that could significantly increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and damage water supplies, forests, wildlife habitat, cultural sites, and air quality. Further, the administration’s plan calls for shortening the time frame for preparation of environmental impact statements and environmental assessments, restricting crucial research processes that lead to more well-informed decision-making and help prevent environmental harm.
“NEPA has helped lead to better federal actions that are informed by science, shaped by public input, and do more to protect our environment and communities,” said Joro Walker, Western Resource Advocates’ general counsel. “With this proposed rule, the administration is essentially opening the door to ill-informed decision-making that could damage our environment and our health and further fuel the climate crisis. Dismantling NEPA risks everything Westerners hold dear: our clean air, our cherished lands and wildlife, our pristine waterways, and our unique cultural resources. We encourage Westerners to reject this blatant disregard for public input, science, and sound decision-making at the highest levels of government.”
The administration is hosting only two public hearings on the proposed rule – one of which is taking place today in Denver at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8 office. According to news sources, free tickets to attend the morning and afternoon sessions ran out within minutes, causing CEQ to add an evening session that also filled up. The limited public hearing process is yet another example of the Trump administration seeking to silence local communities and limit public engagement in governance and democratic processes.
This is the second attempt by the Trump administration to weaken our nation’s bedrock environmental law. In 2019, political appointees at the U.S. Forest Service unveiled a proposal to significantly weaken the agency’s NEPA policies and severely restrict local input on projects. Should the Forest Service’s revisions take effect, countless projects on federal land would be “categorically excluded” from the scientific analysis and public review needed to assess the impacts to water, wildlife, communities, and recreation. When the Forest Service first announced plans to alter its environmental review policies in January 2018, the agency received nearly 35,000 public comments. The agency is expected to release its final NEPA rule in summer 2020.