WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a new letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Department of the Interior (DOI) and Department of Agriculture, Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) joined House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and 60 other House lawmakers in calling on the Trump Administration to suspend more than a dozen recent regulatory actions that weaken environmental, public health, and public lands protections, including a new rule going into effect today that undermines federal assessments of the climate risks and other potential environmental harms of major projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
In the letter, the lawmakers point out that the administration’s constant orders to weaken NEPA are especially disastrous and inappropriate given the added risks to human life during the pandemic:
Undoubtedly, our country is confronting many shared challenges, including the pandemic, climate change, environmental and racial injustice, biodiversity loss, and the need for a more equitable society, but efforts to suppress the voice of the public, deliberately exclude disclosure of harm in environmental analyses, and limit access to the courts are the opposite of what our country needs right now. In this time of ongoing health, economic, and wildlife extinction crises, the administration is continuing to waive environmental regulations to benefit polluters and extractive interests over the public interest.
In addition to today’s CEQ rule, the letter points to the U.S. Forest Service Proposed Rule on NEPA Compliance and rulemaking on oil and gas resources, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s recent memo to the Chief of the Forest Service and secretarial orders 3372 and 3355, various Bureau of Land Management resource management planning, grazing, salvage, vegetation removal, and protest rulemakings, and Executive Orders 13867, 13855 and 13807.
While each of these efforts is problematic, they collectively represent a concerted effort to put the demands of polluting industries over the needs of the American people that has produced legally indefensible regulations without scientific justification. The letter points to the recent efforts by Chair Grijalva and other members to strengthen existing laws and enhance community and climate protections as a clearly superior alternative approach.
“If we don’t address the underlying causes of the disasters we’re facing, if we don’t end these fossil fuel giveaways and clean up our energy supply, then today’s apocalyptic headlines are just the beginning,” Chair Grijalva said today on releasing the letter. “The climate denialists in this administration have lost all credibility and won’t do anything to help us. The rest of us know we have a very short time left to build a sustainable economy powered by clean energy that creates good jobs rather than handing out taxpayer money to fossil fuel polluters.”
“NEPA is a critical tool for civil rights, allowing public input in the decision-making process,” Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) said today. “Vulnerable communities across the country must have a right to make their voices heard and stop pollution in their own back yards. President Trump’s NEPA rollback is trying to rob us of our voice. We will not be silenced.”
“The Trump Administration’s ongoing assault on environmental protections is out of control,” Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) said today. “Let’s be clear, rolling back NEPA isn’t modernization, it’s silencing the voices of millions and will have devastating effects on public health, worker safety, and environmental protections. The health and safety of many communities depends on their ability to speak up and make their voices heard. For more than fifty years, NEPA received bipartisan, widespread support as bedrock conservation law that certified the rights of Americans to have a say in policies affecting their communities.”
“Our communities deserve clean air, water, and land, but the Trump administration continues to put corporate interests ahead of the lives of our families,” Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), vice chair of the full Committee, said today. “At a time when this pandemic has shown us how environmental injustice puts communities historically overburdened with pollution at greater risk of contracting the virus, President Trump continues to give polluters the greenlight to poison our resources and wants to undermine the public’s ability to have a say on policies such as allowing oil and gas drilling near Chaco Canyon. The House Natural Resources Committee will continue to stand with our communities and continue our oversight to fight these harmful rollbacks.”
“Once again, the Trump administration has put fossil fuel lobbyists and corporate polluters ahead of our public health and our planet,” Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) said. The National Environmental Policy Act is a critical tool to give the public a voice when it comes to protecting our air and water. The Trump Administration’s actions don’t just undermine that law, they undermine our democracy, and we will not let them get away with it.”
“The polluters who run this Administration are using the COVID-19 crisis to gut NEPA, a bedrock environmental law,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said. “Weakening NEPA’s regulatory framework paves the way for polluters to exploit marginalized communities that have already disproportionately suffered environmental injustices and to run roughshod over the public health, which is still staggering under the pandemic. We must stop this appalling plunder of our environment, our public lands, and our people.”
“By weakening NEPA regulations, Donald Trump is once again putting pipelines and polluters over people and public lands,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said. “His changes to NEPA regulations will not only limit accountability and transparency but they will result in the dismantling of protections for frontline communities, undermining environmental justice and leading to irreversible harm. We oppose these rollbacks and urge this administration to protect public lands while centering frontline communities at a time when this pandemic has only highlighted how environmental injustice disproportionately impacts them.”