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Tell Congress: NEPA should be strengthened not gutted

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What’s At Stake

The Inflation Reduction Act contained hundreds of billions of dollars to help us fight the climate crisis, but polluting industries and their allies are now looking to retaliate. They are pushing for a “permitting side-deal" that was crafted in the backrooms of Washington with no public disclosure and could now be up for a vote in Congress. The side-deal would be a handout to the fossil fuel industry and constitutes a direct attack on the health of our communities, particularly those who bear the burdens of toxic facilities. It seeks to gut bedrock environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and it is being supported by the oil and gas industry, its lobbyists, and congressional allies. Tell your members of Congress to reject the side-deal.

NEPA is often referred to as “the People’s Environmental Law” because it gives people a voice in federal decision-making when industries try to construct dirty infrastructure projects in their neighborhoods. It’s a key tool for low-income communities and communities of color to fight back against polluting infrastructure — from pipelines to refineries to highways.

If passed, the side-deal could weaken NEPA by:

  • Reducing requirements to consider healthier project alternatives 
  • Allowing deficient state analyses to substitute for federal review, bypassing more protective federal requirements  
  • Promoting the use of categorical exclusions from the NEPA process which would allow projects to be approved with little to no public input, transparency or environmental impact analysis 
  • Trying to exclude impacted communities from seeking legal redress for illegal projects with higher hurdles for impacted stakeholders

Some members in Congress still want this side-deal to go through as part of future, must-pass legislation. We need your help to make it clear to your members of Congress that this deal does not serve the public. This dirty side-deal should not receive a vote — the health of our communities and our planet depend on it. We need your help to stop the bill.

To pass the bill, the fossil fuel industry is spreading a myth that NEPA is the reason for delays in development and the buildout of infrastructure in this country. The truth is that the industry and its political allies have engaged in a malicious and self-serving strategy. They’ve tried to gut NEPA regulations, blocked funding for adequate reviews, and then claimed “burdensome regulations” are slowing down development — all so they can continue to greenlight harmful polluting projects that put their corporate profits over people’s health and our children’s future.

Fortunately, we have the solutions to fight back. Congress just approved nearly $1 billion to fund NEPA as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, which is meant to ensure that future environmental reviews will be thorough and efficient. There’s also a bill in Congress, the Environmental Justice for All Act, which would create certainty for project sponsors and stakeholders by clarifying exactly how agencies should consider and address the cumulative, and often disproportionate, impacts that may result from project development. This type of certainty ensures permitting and project development proceed not just efficiently, but equitably.

This side-deal is far from a done deal. Join us in using your voice to tell Congress to reject this dirty deal. Instead, Congress should pass the Environmental Justice for All Act to stop the gutting of NEPA.

Activists speak out at the U.S. Supreme Court, as oral arguments are heard on Feb. 24, 2020, in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline case.
Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Activists speak out at the U.S. Supreme Court, as oral arguments are heard on Feb. 24, 2020, in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline case.

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

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You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue. Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn more about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.