Opinion: NEPA has been environmental foundation for last 50 years, says Colton resident
Friday, February 7, 2020 - 6:29 am

I am writing to defend the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) against its so-called “modernization” by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality.

This law has been the bedrock of environmental protection for the last 50 years since Republican President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1970. It is the basis for giving the environment standing when planning projects, for citizen lawsuits against polluters, Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), and more. It brings many and various voices “to the table” to be heard and has resulted in numerous win-win examples throughout its five decade history. It is why the United States does not have the degree of pollution that places like China do; it plays an invaluable role in protecting our nation’s environment.

This deceptively named “modernization” of NEPA is actually a significant weakening of the act. It grants industry a far greater role in the process; disturbingly, this includes the writing of the EIS. Today’s NEPA involves multiple agencies with jurisdiction; the new guidelines limit the EIS process to one agency, limit the scope of projects that fall under NEPA, and greatly compress the EIS time frame and even limit the number of pages allowed in an EIS.

The most concerning, however, is the new guidelines no longer require consideration of “cumulative effects,” which has led courts to require climate change to be considered in a project. This is replaced with considering effects that are “reasonably foreseeable” and show “a reasonably close causal relationship.” This essentially says that long term planning and vision with valuable taxpayer dollars is no longer required. At a time when the Dept. of Defense is “incorporating climate resilience as a crosscutting consideration for (their) planning and decision-making processes,” (2019 DoD report), federally funded projects will not have to consider these potential concerns. For the United States to fail to consider the scientifically documented future climate impacts of flooding, wildfires, and etcetera when using taxpayers’ money for projects that may be later impacted by climate is blatantly irresponsible.

Rep. Stefanik has frequently voted to weaken NEPA. We need a representative who would resist these proposed changes. A 60-day comment period has opened and both written and oral comments may be made through https://www.whitehouse.gov/ceq/nepa-modernization/.

2019 DoD report mentioned: https://media.defense.gov/2019/Jan/29/2002084200/-1/-1/1/CLIMATE-CHANGE-...

Ginger Storey-Welch

Colton