Trump Plans to Amend NEPA, Putting Climate Further at Risk
An expected rule proposed by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality will harm communities and our planet. This rule, proposed to be filed by January 8, 2020, would drastically alter the 50-year old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), adopted by the President's Council on Environmental Quality on January 1, 1970.
To date, more than 100 nations around the world have enacted national environmental policies modeled after NEPA. The National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to assess the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions BEFORE making decisions. Agencies also provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations.
But, NEPA has been a chief target of President Trump, who has vowed to build pipelines and other major infrastructure projects, despite their impacts to people and our environment.
What Is Proposed
If enacted, federal agencies would no longer have to take climate change into account when they assess the environmental impacts of highways, pipelines and other major infrastructure projects. Under the White House's proposal, projects that require an environmental review would no longer have to consider “cumulative” effects. Courts have largely interpreted cumulative effects as studying how a project might contribute to climate by adding heat-trapping greenhouse gasses that contribute to extreme weather.
Logging can transform a swath of forest from a carbon “sink” into a carbon source, not only destroying CO2-absorbing trees but emitting tons of new greenhouse gases in the process. Source: Center for Biological Diversity.
In addition, this rule would narrow the range of projects that require environmental review, making more likely that more projects will sail through the approval process without having to disclose plans to do things like discharge waste, cut trees or increase air pollution.
NEPA has been amended just once in 50 years. We expect environmental organizations will be sure to issue swift legal challenges to any changes.
What Can We Do?
Once the proposed rule is filed in the federal register, the public will have 60 days to comment. We’ll let you know when that happens.
For more information, read the New York Times Article “Trump Rule Would Exclude Climate Change in Infrastructure Planning”.