Administration to Gut Environmental Law that Protects Public Health, Environment and National Parks

“The administration’s rewrite of the National Environmental Policy Act is one of their most egregious acts to undermine environmental protections & the public voice.” — NPCA President and CEO Theresa Pierno

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Trump administration is set[1] to finalize a rule to gut the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), one of our country’s bedrock environmental laws. NEPA requires government agencies to carefully consider public health and our environment before taking any “major federal actions” that may “significantly affect” the quality of the human environment, including permitting proposed projects on federal lands, while also giving the public a voice in the process. From ensuring road repairs in Acadia National Park did not destroy the park’s historic character, to expansion projects of Highway 93 near Glacier National Park considered input from local tribes to ensure protection of cultural resources and the safety of visitors, this law has time and again reinforced effective decision making in our national parks.

The administration’s forthcoming action confirms its commitment to destroying decades of environmental protections, curtailing expertise, restricting the government’s power to address the long-term impacts of climate change on federal projects, and limiting the ability of the public to know the health consequences of those projects.

Implications for national parks and surrounding communities, include:

  • Unnecessarily limiting the time needed to complete environmental reviews and public involvement;
  • Putting frontline communities, who have already been most impacted by environmental degradation, at further risk, especially as NEPA is key to ensuring protections for clean water and clear air;
  • Restricting the federal government’s ability to take substantive action to combat climate change – one of the biggest threats facing our parks. NEPA is one of the few remaining laws that required climate change impacts be considered in the permitting process.

Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association:

“The administration’s rewrite of the National Environmental Policy Act is one of their most egregious acts to undermine environmental protections and the public voice. It is an insult to the American people and makes very clear how little this administration cares for our national parks, the resources they protect or their millions of visitors. For more than 50 years, this law has protected our communities and the environment from poorly planned projects that pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink. It has given people a voice in how to best use public lands that belong to all of us. And it has been an important tool for addressing climate change, which is already wreaking havoc on our national parks and communities.

“Across the country, national parks are melting, burning, and drying as our country’s dependence on fossil fuels pollutes our landscapes and harms our communities. And the administration’s anticipated overhaul of NEPA will only make matters worse, as it blatantly ignores science and lets the government and industry off the hook by not requiring the consideration of climate change impacts.

“In the midst of a global health crisis, the administration is taking deliberate steps to bypass a law put in place to help protect marginalized communities – the very communities who are already disproportionately harmed by pollution and climate change and most vulnerable during the ongoing pandemic. The administration’s actions will likely further prevent affected communities from making their voices heard.

“NPCA will not let this stand. We will continue to fight and do everything in our power to ensure that our communities and public lands are protected now, and for generations to come.”

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