Breaking: The Trump Administration has proposed changes that would rollback critical elements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a bedrock environmental law. NEPA is fundamental to protecting public health, safety, and our environment, and the vast majority of Western Slope voters stand behind the Act’s requirements. Despite this, the Trump Administration is still threatening to strip the Act. Tomorrow is the last day for local input on these rollbacks.
See the full press release below for more details:
Deadline tomorrow for local input on proposed rollback of law aimed at protecting health and safety of Coloradans
Feds plan to gut environmental law at odds with preference of Colorado voters
Mark Pearson, San Juan Citizens Alliance (406) 599-2008, email@example.com
DURANGO (March 9, 2020) – Coloradans face a deadline tomorrow, March 10th – it’s the last chance to have their voice heard about proposed changes that would gut the National Environmental Policy Act and potentially limit future opportunities for review and comment on certain development projects or energy leasing. The National Environmental Policy Act is being threatened by the Trump Administration despite broad public support, including a recent survey of Western Slope voters who stand behind the Act’s requirements by an overwhelming margin of 70% to 29%.
“The public wants the chance to comment on projects like timber sales, oil leases, roads and other public land development that has environmental impacts, and recent polling has validated that,” said Mark Pearson, executive director at San Juan Citizens Alliance in Durango. “The poll numbers show that Western Colorado residents appreciate the chance to participate in decisions affecting our national forests and other cherished public lands, but I’m guessing many may not realize we only have until Tuesday to ensure those in DC are listening to us.”
The support for NEPA is broad across party lines and among independents in the Western Slope opinion survey conducted in September 2019 by New Bridge Strategies and Tuesday will be the last opportunity to ensure the CEQ hears that.
One of only two public hearings across the country was held in Denver last month, and Gov. Jared Polis and his administration forcefully pushed back on the Trump Administration’s attempts to gut NEPA. At the hearing, a strong majority of speakers opposed rolling back NEPA, including the directors of the Colorado Departments of Transportation, Natural Resources, and Public Health and the Environment and the Colorado Energy Office.
“While I would strongly support reasonable NEPA reforms that speed up construction permits and reduce red tape, it is troubling to see the White House instead propose changes that would undermine the fundamental purposes of the law and increase the danger of disasters including pipeline leaks and explosions,” said Governor Polis in a release. “Maintaining the federal role as custodians of our environment – to prevent things like costly pipeline spills and contamination – is critical to ensure we protect our state’s most precious environmental resources that support our economy and our way of life.”
For 50 years, NEPA has been one of our most important laws protecting public health and safety and our environment, including the water we drink and the air we breathe. NEPA was enacted in 1970 in response to catastrophic environmental events of that era, like the Cuyahoga River catching on fire and chemical companies dumping toxic wastes without telling nearby communities. The law has also protected Coloradans in situations like the Interstate 70 expansion through Glenwood Canyon in the 1970s, where an early proposal undergoing the review required by NEPA resulted in significant concern among the public. Ultimately, the early proposal was abandoned and a new, community-supported plan was approved thanks to NEPA.
“Our voices have made a difference in the past, and we have to provide input now to ensure our voices can continue to be heard into the future,“ said Jim Ramey, Colorado State Director for The Wilderness Society. “The attempt by the Trump Administration to cut out climate impacts and prejudice agency decision-making in favor of fossil fuel companies is deeply out of step with Colorado values. We hope they will listen to Coloradans and abandon this attempt to give extractive industries a blank check.”
Respondents in the poll conducted by the San Juan Citizens Alliance similarly believe the Clean Water Act should apply to all the nation’s water supplies, including small streams, by 80% to 17%. The Trump Administration is also proposing to wipe out protections for wetlands and small streams critical to environmental health in the arid West, also at odds with voter preferences.
How the National Environmental Policy Act Succeeds Locally – Examples
- NEPA Success Stories, Map and state-by-state stories, The Partnership Project.
- Natural Resources Defense Council, “Never Eliminate Public Advice: NEPA Success Stories,” (2015). Examples by state.
- Environmental Law Institute, Partnership Project, “NEPA Success Stories: Celebrating 40 Years of Transparency and Open Government,” (2010).