National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) - Proposed Changes
February 28, 2020
For half a century the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has enabled citizens to protect national forests by holding federal managers accountable to enforceable legal standards. This bedrock law is now under serious attack. Trump is proposing to discount the long term cumulative impacts of cutting millions of trees, accelerating the climate catastrophe and destroying vital wildlife habitat. While the changes apply to all federal agencies, the impacts locally will be to rubber stamp continued Forest Service mismanagement.
Make your opposition known by writing a personal letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality using the information below and in the attached documents. Comments are due Tuesday March 10.
Send to https://www.regulations.gov./comment?D=CEQ-2019-0003-0001
The new regulations implementing NEPA would:
- Provide unbridled authority to the Forest Service to determine whether an environmental impact statement is required. Under existing regulations an environmental impact statement must be prepared if a proposed action involves highly controversial, uncertain or unknown risks or pose a threat to endangered species, roadless lands or Wilderness Areas. The new regulations remove these and other criteria.
- Eliminates the duty of the Forest Service to consider the cumulative and indirect impacts of massive clearing and burning projects. For example, multiple ongoing and reasonably foreseeable projects could be approved without acknowledging that fuel reduction will not alter regional wildfire trends and could result in significant environment harm. The agency would also no longer be required to evaluate the impacts to public health of repeated exposure to toxic smoke from prescribed fires.
- The effects on the climate of cutting millions of trees would not be considered "significant" under the new rules and thus not require an environmental impact statement or any other NEPA review.
- Chills the ability of the public to hold the Forest Service accountable by requiring those opposing a project to post a monetary bond prior to seeking administrative review.
- Weakens the responsibility of the Forest Service to provide an objective and clear basis for evaluating alternatives, including alternatives proposed by the public to protect roadless forests and focus fuel reduction near homes.
- Allow timber companies to undertake environmental analysis of proposed projects even if there is a conflict of interest between their financial gain and protection of the environment.
- Dramatically weakens the imperative for the Forest Service to address public concerns and constructively use the NEPA process to protect, restore, and enhance national forests.
- Sets the stage for getting rid of NEPA completely. The conservative Heritage Foundation is already calling for the complete repeal of NEPA.
Trump targets a bedrock environmental law (High Country News)
5 Ways Trump's Latest Anti-Environmental Proposal Would Allow Fossil Fuel Companies to Bulldoze Communities (Center For American Progress)
Trump proposal to weaken project reviews threatens the "Magna Carta of environmental law" (The Conversation)
Trump's Latest Attack on the Environment May Be His Most Alarming Yet Sharon Zhang Sharon Zhang (Truthout)
Federal Register January 10, 2020 / Proposed Rules / NEPA