It’s been a wild month. Two weeks ago, the Trump administration finalized its attack on America’s bedrock environmental law—the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Today, SUWA, along with a nationwide coalition of conservation and environmental justice organizations, challenged the administration’s rollback of NEPA regulations in federal court.
NEPA, often referred to as the “Magna Carta” of environmental law, is our “national charter for the protection of the environment.” It has two primary goals. First, it guarantees that federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) analyze and disclose the impacts of proposed projects on the environment and public health. Second, it guarantees that the relevant information will be made available to the public so that they can play a role in both the decision-making process and the implementation of that decision.
The Trump administration’s revised NEPA regulations severely undermine these goals. For example, they:
- Allow Federal agencies such as the BLM to exempt a broader range of projects from analysis and disclosure;
- Expedite the decision-making process by establishing presumptive time limits on environmental reviews;
- Encourage the use of programmatic environmental reviews, which allow agencies to front-load generic, boilerplate analyses and effectively postpone meaningful analyses until the 11th hour, if at all.
- Limit the range of potential “effects” that must be analyzed and disclosed by the agency prior to approving new projects;
- Put private interests ahead of public interests by allowing Federal agencies to consider “the goals of the applicant” when crafting alternatives to the proposed project; and
- Restrict public participation by allowing federal agencies to require that the public post a bond before they can challenge development proposals on public lands.
In short, the revised NEPA regulations are designed to allow federal agencies such as the BLM to push through more projects, faster, and with less analysis and public scrutiny.
Make no mistake, Trump’s assault on NEPA strikes at the heart of our work to protect the redrock. If left unchallenged, it will weaken the scientific review process, stifle public input, and open the door to unchecked exploitation of America’s public lands.
Contact your members of Congress today and tell them to oppose Trump’s attack on this crucial environmental law.
Importantly, NEPA regulations apply to all federal projects on public lands, including those managed by the BLM, Forest Service, and National Park Service. It is estimated that federal agencies approve more than 110,000 projects each year, including thousands in Utah alone.
Without an intact NEPA review process it would have been significantly harder for SUWA to successfully challenge more than 300,000 acres of oil and gas leasing, or the two enormous vegetation removal projects proposed for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Beyond its importance to public land protection, NEPA also gives vulnerable populations a chance to voice concerns about development proposals that may harm their communities, including power plants and fossil fuel pipelines. The Trump administration’s rollback of NEPA regulations exploits these marginalized communities, endangers human health, and exacerbates the climate crisis.
Like so many of Trump’s policies, we are confident that this one will be sent to the trash pile of bad ideas. You can help ensure this by contacting your members of Congress today.