Posted on March 9, 2020 by Sarah Winter Whelan, Ocean Policy Program Director, American Littoral Society
The National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, was passed by Congress and signed by President Nixon on January 1, 1970. At its most basic level, NEPA requires federal agencies to engage in a review process to identify any significant environmental, economic, social, or health impacts a project may have before decisions are made and construction begins.
In many cases, NEPA is the only law that provides local communities the ability to weigh in on federal projects impacting their health and safety. It ensures that those who manage federal projects make informed decisions based on the best information while involving and informing the public.
For example, if the government wanted to build a pipeline through a residential neighborhood, the NEPA review process would require full disclosure of the agency’s plans, who and how many people will be impacted, and the long-term impacts it would have on the local community. Most importantly, NEPA provides the affected community the opportunity to object and offer alternatives.
But now the White House tells us they want to “streamline” those regulations to allow infrastructure projects to move forward. What the White House is actually trying to do with these proposed changes is make it easier to rubberstamp permits for corporate polluters and entrench climate denial into agency decision-making. If allowed to take effect, these changes could:
· Make it easier for projects harmful to our ocean -- like offshore drilling and seismic blasting -- to be approved with little review for minimizing impacts to ocean habitat and marine wildlife.
· Allow dirty fossil fuel projects, such as pipelines and coal fired power plants, to proceed because new environmental reviews could minimize and put off whether the project would contribute to climate change.
This sham effort to “expedite” environmental review of proposed federal projects is really just a way to ignore science, rubber stamp projects that will damage our ocean, and further fuel our rapidly warming climate. With our seas rising, in some places twice as fast as global mean sea level, we do not have the luxury to sit back and watch the Trump Administration dismantle crucial environmental safeguards like NEPA.
Together, we have a strong voice and right now we have the chance to use it. The White House is taking public comments on their proposed NEPA rules until Tuesday, March 10th. We cannot give up our fight for clean air, clean water, and a healthy ocean. It is too important. So stand and raise your voice with us today.