ISSUE: National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

On January 1, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed into law, with overwhelming bipartisan support, the nation’s bedrock environmental law: the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

50 years later, the current administration is trying to strip away the protections put in place by this historic legislation.

What’s the issue?

  • The current administration is attacking the nation’s bedrock environmental law that, for 5 decades, has ensured transparency, public input, and accountability in federal projects

Who’s involved?

  • The current administration
  • The White House Council on Environmental Quality

What’s the history of this?

  • The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was passed in 1970 by an overwhelming bipartisan majority and has been one of the most broadly applicable, effective laws in the entire federal government as it applies to every major federal action the government takes
  • NEPA is one of the nation’s bedrock pieces of environmental law
  • This law ensures reasonable, balanced, and transparent protection for environment and public health
  • Before decisions are made or any construction begins, NEPA requires federal agencies to identify significant environmental, economic, social, or health impacts that a project could have
  • These agency reviews can sometimes be the only way local communities can learn about and weigh in on federal projects that could impact their health and safety
  • The key pillars of this law are public input, impact review and informed decision making, transparency, and accountability
  • NEPA applies to more than 50,000 federal actions every year

What’s happening now?

  • The current administration has introduced new regulations that would rollback the requirements laid out in NEPA
  • Some of these draft regulations include silencing public input, which would sideline frontline communities from environmental decisions that impact their health and the health of their families
  • The current administration is claiming that rolling back NEPA will streamline projects and eliminate project delays
  • The administration has received over 172,000 comments, the majority of which have opposed the attacks on NEPA 

What’s at stake?

Public voice:
  • For five decades, NEPA has given the public a voice in government decisions that impact the environment and communities. By rolling back NEPA, this opportunity for direct input and influence will be stripped away
  • Without any accountability, projects can be implemented that directly threaten the health and safety of communities, who might not even know about these impacts of the project.
  • Loosening the requirements on environmental reviews will overlook vital information that federal project managers have used to make informed decisions.
Climate change:
  • Part of each project study must include an action’s direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on climate change, including anticipated carbon footprints. Without this information, projects can occur without limitations.
  • By giving industry and polluters the freedom to act without restriction or rules on their federally-contracted projects, communities are written out of the process.
  • Ignoring the potential impacts of a project will hinder attempts to create a long-term project that could last the tests of time, natural disasters, and unforeseen circumstances.
  • NEPA can prevent poorly conceived projects from being pushed through. But without any accountability, projects can run wild at the cost of taxpayers rather than finding more cost-effective, sustainable ways to complete a project.

How can I help?

  • Register to vote!
  • Vote!
  • Get your friends and family to register to vote and to vote in every election!
  • Reach out to federal and state lawmakers and urge them to oppose these rollbacks (for example, Utah’s current governor, Gary Herbert, has publicly expressed support for these rollbacks)