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Amanda Jahshan’s Blog

NEPA Under Attack

Amanda Jahshan

Posted May 22, 2013 in U.S. Law and Policy

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I have a confession to make.  National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is kind of a misnomer.  And I have to believe that’s the reason citizens and their representatives in Congress aren’t doing more to fight for this law.  

So let’s clear things up.   NEPA isn’t some crunchy, tree hugging, kumbaya law.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love crunchy, tree hugging, and kumbaya… but categorizing NEPA as such, wouldn’t be accurate.   Pull out your American flag, folks, because we are about to get downright patriotic.  NEPA is about democracy, accountability, and government transparency.  Shouldn’t we be able to ask our government why they’ve made certain decisions?  Shouldn’t we have a justification for how our money is being spent?  Shouldn’t we be given a forum to disagree when it’s a cause worth fighting for? 

That’s what NEPA guarantees us!  That sounds like a whole lot of common sense, and quite frankly, this town could use some of that these days.  NEPA requires that major federal decisions are given proper deliberation.  It’s about considering options, disclosing facts, and making sure that citizens have a voice in decisions that affect their homes, their families, their land, and their health.  

In Clark, Wyoming, public input required by NEPA helped the local community protect their land, property value, big game species, and historical sites from destructive, explosive-charge seismic surveying.  Instead, passive seismic was used to achieve project goals, while protecting community interests.  And in North Carolina, NEPA disclosure and consideration of alternatives helped save over $685 million dollars, as a proposed bypass was found to be unnecessary after consideration of improving already existing roads to satisfy project needs.

Unfortunately, NEPA doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, and it gets a lot of blame that it doesn’t.  Operating in a behind-the-scenes capacity, it’s benefited countless projects, resulting in better, more community-supported uses of federal funds.  But Congress is pointing fingers at NEPA as a cause of project delay.  Just last week the Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which imposes arbitrary deadlines on NEPA reviews, discouraging agency collaboration while rushing projects through the pipeline without adequate public comment periods.  If that doesn’t sound silly enough, NEWSFLASH: the major “benefactor” of this $12 BILLION law, the Army Corps of Engineers (the agency in charge of water-related projects), doesn’t even like the bill! They testified that the WRDA bill would create MORE delay.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to MY health, MY family, and MY environment, I don’t believe in shortcuts.  “Streamlining” proper disclosure and review will lead to unnecessary harm and wasteful spending, and unless that’s what you want, I hope you’ll join NRDC in standing up for NEPA so that it can continue to stand up for you. 

Visit our website, and see how NEPA is hard at work in your neck of the woods. 

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About

Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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