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White House to Overhaul the National Environmental Policy Act

…the 1970’s absolutely must be the years when America pays its debt to the past by reclaiming the purity of its air, its waters, and our living environment. It is literally now or never.

~ President Nixon’s Signing Statement for the National Environmental Policy Act, January 1, 1970

Considered the nation’s oldest environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) creates an important framework that policymakers and community leaders can use to balance the effects of major federally permitted development projects on the natural and cultural environment. 

NEPA provides environmental oversight by ensuring that these projects consider impacts on air, water, critical habitat and wildlife.

What is the National Environmental Policy Act? E&E News Explains

Before construction can begin on a proposed major development project that is likely to affect the environment and nearby communities, NEPA requires federal agencies to:

  1. Assess the environmental impact of a project, an estimated 1% of projects require an agency to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for review
  2. Allow for public engagement throughout the review of the proposed action

Fundamental changes to 50-year-old the law aim to loosen these mandates.  President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed changing rules under the NEPA to limit both the length and scope of projects’ environmental reviews.

New Rules Poised to Weaken the Nation’s Benchmark Environmental Law

The proposed new rules, which was posted to the Federal Register today,  seeks to change the regulations that guide the implementation of the law in a number of ways, including narrowing the types of projects that require an assessment, ruling out consideration of the “cumulative impacts” a project would have – such as climate change, set time limits on environmental impact studies, and provide less time for public input.

There will be a 60-day public comment period on the NEPA proposal, with public hearings scheduled in Denver and in Washington, D.C., in February.