Tell CEQ: Don’t Rush Environmental Review! - Waterkeeper

Tell CEQ: Don’t Rush Environmental Review!

By: Larissa Liebmann

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a monumental law passed in 1970 which requires agencies to research the potential environmental impacts of their decisions, how these impacts can be mitigated, and to consider alternatives. NEPA protects right for the public to get information about the potential impacts and participate in the decision-making process. The NEPA process is incredibly valuable, as it helps to ensure that decisions by the federal government are made in a transparent, well-informed manner. But the Trump administration is trying to weaken it.

Please submit a comment by Monday, August 20 standing up for careful and robust environmental review that allows for meaningful public participation as intended by Congress.

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), a division within the Executive Office of the President, was established by NEPA to ensure that federal agencies meet their legal obligations under the statute. While CEQ was intended by Congress to serve as a NEPA watchdog, the Trump CEQ is now considering making major changes to the well-established NEPA process that would make it easier to advance environmentally damaging projects and to shut the public out of the process.

The Trump administration, spurred on by industry special interests, decries the NEPA environmental review process as overly burdensome and too slow. However, one of the most important aspects of NEPA is that is forces the federal government to pause and carefully study the impacts of a proposed project and consider whether better alternatives exist. This process, when it is earnestly conducted with communities and ecosystems in mind, can uncover impacts that might have been overlooked and can prevent the federal government from plowing forward with inefficient or dangerous plans.

Some of the changes to the NEPA process being considered by CEQ are: arbitrary deadlines and page limits for NEPA documents, limiting the scope of environmental review, and restricting the ability and time for the public to provide input. These changes, if they are adopted, would result in rushed, less thorough environmental reviews and fewer opportunities for impacted communities to voice their concerns.

Poudre Waterkeeper Gary Wockner is in the process of reviewing the environmental impact statement prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the “Northern Integrated Supply Project.” “This is an enormous water storage project that would significantly decrease the amount of water in the Poudre River, with widespread environmental consequences,” said Gary Wockner. “It would be devastating if companies and the federal government were able to ram forward projects like this without conducting a thorough environmental review and letting the public have a say. The National Environmental Policy Act is a bedrock law of American democracy that gives citizens not just the right, but the responsibility, to protect our environment from pollution. These proposed changes by CEQ would undercut the public’s ability to ensure adequate scientific and legal decision-making thereby handing more of our environment and our democracy away to polluters.”

Please help us protect NEPA by submitting your comment to CEQ by Monday, August 20th. Here is a template to help you get started:

“I am writing because I am concerned about plans to “streamline” the environmental review process required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Many of the suggested changes, purportedly intended to speed up and simplify the NEPA process, will actually simply weaken the environmental review process, and limit public participation.

NEPA is intended to cause delay! It was designed to force the federal government to pause and carefully consider impacts and alternatives before projects are approved. Now, the Administration is seeking to hamstring this vital environmental law in order to appease companies that want to rush forward projects. The end effect will be that inefficient, environmentally damaging projects will be completed, and the voices of impacted communities will be silenced.

Some of the potential changes to the NEPA process that concern me are: arbitrary deadlines and page limits, limiting the scope of environmental review, and restricting the ability of the public to give input. These changes will diminish the quality of environmental review and limit public input, and I therefore urge you to abandon this arbitrary and capricious effort. Instead, please seek to make the NEPA process more robust with greater opportunities for meaningful public participation to fulfill the statute’s purpose: “to encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation.”



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