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Trump Administration Guts National Environmental Policy Act

Final Council on Environmental Quality regulations to trigger legal challenges
Heavy equipment is moved at a pipeline construction site in eastern Pennsylvania. The following day, heavy drilling liquid leaked out to the nearby street and residential area.

Heavy equipment is moved at a pipeline construction site in eastern Pennsylvania. The following day, heavy drilling liquid leaked out to the nearby street and residential area. The National Environmental Policy Act helps communities protect themselves from dangerous, rushed or poorly planned federal projects.

Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images
July 15, 2020
Washington, D.C. —

Today, the Trump administration finalized its proposal to gut more than 40 years of settled environmental law. The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released the final text of a sweeping rule which will eviscerate core components of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a crucial safeguard for communities’ clean air, clean water, and health, as well as imperiled species and wild lands. Environmental justice and conservation advocates announced their intention to respond to the rollback with legal action.

CEQ’s proposal is the culmination of a relentless, multiyear assault on NEPA’s protections for workers, local communities, and the natural environment. It would open the door for the government to exempt pipelines, large-scale logging operations, waste incinerators, smog-spewing highways, and countless other federal actions from environmental review or sharply limit local communities’ ability to participate in the environmental decision-making process.

“When is this administration going to learn that the economy is the people?” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with Earthjustice. “Gutting NEPA silences voices and puts vulnerable communities, health, and our environment — including our air and water — at risk. We’re not going to sit back and allow a decision that could harm public health during a public health crisis go unscathed. We’ll be seeing them in court.”

“We have consistently defeated this administration’s relentless, vicious dismantling of safeguards for people and the environment, and we will do so again with this final rule,” said Susan Jane Brown at the Western Environmental Law Center. “A thriving economy is not at odds with worker protections and a healthy environment — it depends on both.”

The administration’s disregard for NEPA flies in the face of decades of bipartisan consensus on the law. Passed almost unanimously by Congress and signed into law by President Nixon in 1970, it was the product of years of determined activism from people who wanted a greater say in decisions affecting their homes, health, and environment.

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Contacts

Liz Trotter, Earthjustice, (305) 332-5395

We're the lawyers for the environment, and the law is on our side.