NEPA Rollback Endangers Communities and Wildlife

Photo by Doug Dance
Photo by Doug Dance

Washington, DC—Today, the Trump administration finalized its overhaul of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), enacting new regulations that weaken this key environmental law. Unprecedented in significance and scope, these changes undermine informed agency decision-making, reduce transparency, and limit critical public involvement. Moreover, they fundamentally erode the purpose and intent of NEPA by denying the public the democratic process at the heart of the law.

NEPA has been described as the basic charter for the protection of the environment. The law requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of projects and gives communities across the country an opportunity to voice their concerns about how these proposals may threaten public health and ecosystems.

Power plants, highways, oil and gas development, and logging will now be able to move forward without full consideration of their environmental impacts and without a requirement that a broad range of safer, more ecologically sound alternatives be considered. Several of the changes are clearly designed to restrict agencies’ ability to consider a project’s adverse impacts on climate change, despite numerous court rulings requiring agencies to conduct climate evaluations under NEPA.

This misguided approach will undoubtedly lead to declines in air and water quality, destruction of wildlife habitat, and harm to public health, particularly in communities of color, which for decades have disproportionately shouldered the burden of toxic pollution in their neighborhoods.

“The new rules are inconsistent with both the letter and spirit of NEPA,” said Johanna Hamburger, wildlife attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute. “Far from achieving the administration’s stated purpose of ‘streamlining’ NEPA, the changes unduly restrict agency decision-making on complex matters of critical importance to communities.

“They also sow greater uncertainty by upending established case law, policies, and procedures. In the end, this leads to more confusion for regulated industries and the public, which will take years — if not decades — to resolve.”

Media Contact

Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, margie@awionline.org

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