EPA proposes changes to 50 year-old National Environmental Policy Act.

January 27, 2020

The Trump administration has proposed fundamental changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) according to a January 9, 2020 Washington Post report. EPA’s proposed changes to NEPA regulations are an attempt to speed up new mines, pipelines and hundreds of other projects around the country.

Prior to NEPA, Federal agencies were mission oriented. An example of mission orientation was to select highway routes as the shortest route between two points. When enacted NEPA required Federal agencies to evaluate the environmental effects of their actions. Significant NEPA outcomes include requirements that all executive Federal agencies prepare environmental assessments (EAs), environmental impact statements (EISs) and include the public in the process before a spade of dirt is turned. The proposed Trump rules would narrow the scope of the NEPA.

The Trump changes would mean that communities would have less control over some projects built in their neighborhoods. Environmental groups, tribal activists and others have used the law to delay or block a slew of infrastructure, mining, logging and drilling projects since NEPA was signed by President Richard Nixon.

Other proposal aspects would set deadlines and page limits for environmental reviews so that, with rare exceptions, agencies would have to finish their most exhaustive reviews within two years. Currently, environmental impact statements for major projects can take three times that long to complete and can span hundreds of pages.

The proposal also states that groups that fail to weigh in during the public comment period would forfeit any right to raise objections later in litigation. It also limits the analysis of a project’s full climate impact. “Effects should not be considered significant if they are remote in time, geographically remote, or the product of a lengthy causal chain,” the proposal says.

Trump told reporters at the White House that his proposal will allow highways to be built in “a small fraction of the time.” He added, “We will not stop until our nation’s gleaming new infrastructure has made America the envy of the world again. It used to be the envy of the world, and now we’re like a third-world country. It’s really sad.”

NEPA, was enacted as U.S. environmental law on January 1, 1970. More than 100 nations around the world have enacted national environmental policies modeled after NEPA. The White House NEPA proposal will almost certainly face legal challenges.

What this means to you
President Trump has proposed fundamental changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Proposed changes to NEPA regulations are an attempt to speed up new mines, pipelines and hundreds of other projects around the country,

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