The Trump administration is facing public outcry over a proposal to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act. The law was enacted in 1970 to address growing concern with runaway pollution and the potential impacts of major projects like highways, dams and mines. The Trump administration is attempting to fast-track new rules that govern how NEPA is implemented — slashing the environmental review time while eliminating any consideration of climate change as a potential impact of a project. Supporters of the changes include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Koch Brothers-funded American Petroleum Institute.
Earlier this week, the Council on Environmental Quality held a public hearing in Denver on the rule change. An indigenous-led rally opposing the NEPA regulatory rollback was held nearby, criticizing the proposed rules as well as the limited access the public had to the hearing itself. Advance online registration for the hearing was required and filled up within two minutes. Among those few who did get access to make a formal statement at the hearing was Alma Sanchez of the group Defenders of Wildlife.
Alma Sanchez: “I’m a 28-year-old Mexicana-Guatemalteca who cares deeply about the environment, wildlife, our nation’s public lands and the health of all of our communities. While I am only 28, I am wise enough to understand and old enough to have witnessed that it is communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities that disproportonately are the victims of environmental contamination and pollution. Highways, refineries, power plants and toxic waste are more likely to end up in my commnunity. Our children are more likely to have asthma. NEPA is fundamental to protecting the health and rights of minorities and marginalized communities. NEPA forces the federal government to daylight its actions along with an accounting of the environmental effects. It gives the public a voice in the decision-making. That won’t be the case under these proposed new rules. The government will not be obligated to consider and disclose the full array of environmental effects. Worse still, especially to my generation that has inherited the consequences and burdens of climate change, the government won’t have to tell us how its actions, like leasing land for oil and gas development, will affect climate change. This is unacceptable to me. We all have a right to know what the government is doing and what the environmental fallout will be. This rule-making is yet another gift to polluters and yet another blow to a clean environment and healthy communities. The Trump administration must withdraw this harmful proposal and stop harming communities like mine.”
That was Alma Sanchez of Defenders of Wildlife at the NEPA regulatory rollback hearing in Denver on Monday. The second and final planned public hearing is scheduled for February 25 in Washington, D.C.