Administration Undermines Bedrock Environmental Law
Changes will weaken quality of environmental reviews
The Trump administration today finalized extensive revisions for how federal agencies implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), curtailing the effectiveness and value of one of America’s most important protections for nature and public health.
The law, enacted 50 years ago, ensures the government considers potential environmental effects of federal actions ranging from infrastructure projects like new pipelines and roads to adding new acres to protected land.
In January, the administration proposed changes for how the federal government implements the act, including completely eliminating consideration of cumulative effects, which could exclude factors like climate change from NEPA analysis. Other proposed changes included applying arbitrary time limitations to the NEPA process, allowing some developers to do their own reviews and expanding the use of categorical exclusions that limit further impact analysis for certain projects. In comments submitted in March, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) urged the administration to abandon its proposal and focus its efforts on better implementation and enforcement of existing regulations.
At a time when nature is under unprecedented threats, these changes erode the very foundation of environmental law in the United States.
The following is a statement by TNC Chief External Affairs Officer Lynn Scarlett:
“At a time when nature is under unprecedented threats, these changes erode the very foundation of environmental law in the United States. Assessing the environmental impact of any endeavor requires strong scientific standards, thorough analysis and robust public engagement, but the administration has instead embraced an ill-conceived path that will endanger the health of communities and ecosystems nationwide.
“The National Environmental Policy Act is one of a suite of foundational environmental laws adopted over the last five decades that has dramatically improved the health and quality of our natural world. Many of the changes adopted today by the administration are inconsistent with the clear purpose of NEPA and focused solely on making faster decisions without maintaining or enhancing the quality of those decisions and the environmental outcomes they support.
“In embracing the faulty assumption that we must either support economic growth or protect the environment, this rule would turn back the clock on years of progress by jettisoning critical components of the NEPA process. This final rule undermines the longstanding rule of law and regulations governing how we consider the environmental impacts of federal actions in this country and will result in harm to the public and our natural resources.”
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.