Our congressman, Peter DeFazio happens to be the Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure – on Tuesday, he let loose on the Trump administration.
DeFazio objects to the administration finalizing a rule to gut the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). For more than 50 years, the NEPA process has been vital to public health and ensuring public participation in major environmental decisions.
“Today, thanks to President Trump, corporate polluters are celebrating another win that comes at the expense of the environment and the American people,” said Chair DeFazio, who urged the administration in March to withdraw the proposal.
“By finalizing this rule, the Trump administration is not only trying to distract from what actually causes delays in permitting infrastructure—a lack of funding—but is also abandoning decades of transparency in Federal decision making and instead pushing critical decisions into the shadows, where the president’s wealthy and well-connected cronies have a better shot at exploiting our lands for their own gain. The NEPA process is critical to accounting for the impacts of climate change when considering federally funded infrastructure projects. Ignoring those impacts is a mistake will result in limited taxpayer dollars being spent on projects that cannot withstand future storms and other impacts of climate change.”
Environmental justice and conservation advocates announced their intention to respond to the rollback with legal action.
The Council on Environmental Quality proposal is the culmination of a relentless, multiyear assault on NEPA’s protections for workers, local communities, and the natural environment. It would open the door for the government to exempt pipelines, large-scale logging operations, waste incinerators, smog-spewing highways, and countless other federal actions from environmental review or sharply limit local communities’ ability to participate in the environmental decision-making process.
“When is this administration going to learn that the economy is the people?” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with Earthjustice. “Gutting NEPA silences voices and puts vulnerable communities, health, and our environment — including our air and water — at risk. We’re not going to sit back and allow a decision that could harm public health during a public health crisis go unscathed. We’ll be seeing them in court.”
“We have consistently defeated this administration’s relentless, vicious dismantling of safeguards for people and the environment, and we will do so again with this final rule,” said Susan Jane Brown at the Western Environmental Law Center. “A thriving economy is not at odds with worker protections and a healthy environment — it depends on both.”
Earthjustice says the administration’s disregard for NEPA flies in the face of decades of bipartisan consensus on the law. Passed almost unanimously by Congress and signed into law by President Nixon in 1970, it was the product of years of determined activism from people who wanted a greater say in decisions affecting their homes, health, and environment.