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NEPA Rollback Puts Industry Profits Over Public Health and Environment

July 17, 2020
Sarah McMillan, WildEarth Guardians, 406-549-3895, smcmillan@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy, Public Lands, Rivers, Wildlife  
On July 16, 2020, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published a final rule that will gut and undermine many aspects of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), America’s bedrock environmental law. These new, weaker NEPA regulations will go into effect on September 14, 2020.

Signed into law fifty years ago, NEPA ensures that the federal government analyze and fully disclose the environmental impacts of their activities, such as highway and pipeline construction, dam-building and logging, drilling, grazing and mining on federal public lands. More importantly, NEPA gives the public the right to be involved and to influence federal actions that may affect their environment.

NEPA has given communities a voice when new highways are proposed through neighborhoods. NEPA has empowered local and state governments to stand up to federal agencies. NEPA provided Tribes the tools needed to defend sacred lands. And NEPA has enabled watchdogs across the country to make a difference for people and the planet.

Here are statements about this latest environmental rollback from the Trump administration, as well as specific examples of how WildEarth Guardians has relied on NEPA to protect communities, public health, public lands, imperiled wildlife, living rivers and the climate:

“The National Environmental Policy Act, one of our bedrock environmental laws underlies much of our work at WildEarth Guardians. NEPA ensures transparency and requires agencies to take a close and hard look at the impacts of their actions—to take a 360 degree view of how their actions may be compounded by other actions.” – Sarah McMillian, Conservation Director, WildEarth Guardians

“The Trump administration’s new NEPA rollback is a brazen attempt to cut the public voice out of government decision-making and paper over the reality of climate change impacts. This is ‘big government’ using a heavy hand to clear the way for increased extraction of public lands and squash American voices.” – Marla Fox, Staff Attorney, WildEarth Guardians

“The National Environmental Policy Act—the law that was gutted by the Trump Administration this week—is one of the most fundamental protections for people’s voices, communities, and the environment in the United States. This law is vital to ensuring the protection of living rivers and clean water by empowering people impacted by proposed projects to speak for themselves. Projects to dam, divert, dredge, or pollute living rivers to the detriment of communities, clean water, and the climate were open for dissent and for the development of less damaging alternatives. The Trump Administration, by its new rule, has continued to put industry profits and harmful extraction over the health and safety of people.” – Jen Pelz, Wild Rivers Program Director, WildEarth Guardians

“Make no mistake, this isn’t just an assault on our environment, it’s an assault on democracy, equality, and community. For 50 years, the National Environmental Policy Act has empowered people to defend their neighborhoods, protect their families, and uphold our right to a healthy environment. These latest rollbacks are an immense injustice. We will not roll over and let the Trump administration throw people under the bus to make corporate executives rich, we will be in court and we will do everything in our power to overturn these dangerous rollbacks.” – Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director, WildEarth Guardians

“NEPA was enacted to enable the people to keep the government and polluters in check and to protect fish, birds and wildlife, public lands, and water and air quality. This dismantling of one of our most important environmental safety nets takes power away from the people and gives it to the extractive industries and polluting corporate interests that are lining Trump’s pockets. As a result, public health—particularly in lower income and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities—and the natural world will suffer irreparable harm. In the U.S. we have a unique situation where people have power to protect their rights, to ensure that we have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, and also to protect the rights of nature. NEPA is a bedrock environmental law providing that power. The Trump administration has just taken power away from the people in favor of polluting and extractive industries that put profit over public health and safety, and private interests over the rights of wildlife, wild places and wild rivers to survive and thrive.” – Judi Brawer, Wild Places Program Director, WildEarth Guardians

“While much of our wildlife work relies on the Endangered Species Act for protection of imperiled species and their habitat, NEPA provides an avenue to hold agencies accountable for a broader range of activities that impact wildlife and wildlife habitat. For example, our wildlife program regularly engages in NEPA processes conducted by Wildlife Services, a wildlife killing program under the Department of Agriculture that has long operated in relative obscurity. NEPA allows us to submit current science to try to bring the program’s activities into the norms and standards of this century. NEPA has ensured that we know, at least generally, what they plan to do and allowed us to successfully litigate against WS when the program approved the slaughter of wildlife, ignored the best available science, and did so without regard for the environmental impact of this destruction. But under gutted NEPA provisions, Wildlife Services would be allowed to operate in even more secrecy and skirt public involvement in the decision-making processes that authorize killing of more than a million wild animals every year.  These rollbacks give federal programs like Wildlife Services the opportunity to ask for a free pass on conducting any environmental analysis of its work, cutting the public and organizations like Guardians out of the process, and allowing taxpayer dollars to be used to kill wildlife without anyone’s knowledge. Such unfettered destruction of our wildlife will be disastrous for ecosystems at a time when there is already a biodiversity crisis that threatens the health and well-being of all.”  – Lindsay Larris, Wildlife Program Director, WildEarth Guardians

Other Contact
Marla Fox, WildEarth Guardians, 651-434-7737, mfox@wildearthguardians.org, Jen Pelz, WildEarth Guardians, 303-884-2702, jpelz@wildearthguardians.org , Judi Brawer, WildEarth Guardians, 208-871-0596, jbrawer@wildearthguardians.org , Lindsay Larris, WildEarth Guardians, 310-923-1465, llarris@wildearthguardians.org