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President Trump is Correct: It’s Time to Bring NEPA Into the 21st Century

Gabriella Hoffman
by Gabriella Hoffman Read Profile arrow_right_alt

This morning, President Trump announced his intention to modernize the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process.

Famously called the “Magna Carta” of environmental laws, NEPA was one of the first environmental laws passed in the U.S. on January 1st, 1970.

The law stipulates governmental agencies must give consideration to potential environmental risks and consequences when considering new actions. As of 1978, the Council on Environmental Quality has directed federal agencies to effectively implement NEPA.

The law preceded the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency by three years. Critics assert in the last 40 years, with the exception of 1986, the law hasn’t been properly updated.

Here’s more on NEPA:

Section 101 of NEPA sets forth a national policy “to use all practicable means and measures, including financial and technical assistance, in a manner calculated to foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.” 42 U.S.C. 4331(a). Section 102 of NEPA establishes procedural requirements, applying that national policy to proposals for major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment by requiring Federal agencies to prepare a detailed statement on: (1) the environmental impact of the proposed action; (2) any adverse effects that cannot be avoided; (3) alternatives to the proposed action; (4) the relationship between local short-term uses of man’s environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity; and (5) any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources that would be involved in the proposed action. 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C).

Today’s announcement of proposed rule changes coincides with the 50th anniversary of the law first being enacted. The White House issued this statement:

Signed into law on January 1, 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal agencies to consider and inform the public of the environmental effects of proposed major Federal actions.  NEPA’s enactment was the culmination of legislative efforts to establish a national environmental policy and incorporate the consideration of environmental issues into the Federal Government’s decision-making processes.  Today, on the 50th anniversary of this milestone legislation, we take the opportunity to reflect upon NEPA’s goals of protecting our Nation’s natural resources and recommit to ensuring a safe, healthy, and productive environment for all Americans.

President Trump added:

My Administration remains committed to improving the environmental review and permitting process while ensuring environmental protection.  This will benefit our economy and environment while also enhancing the quality of life for current and future generations of Americans.  Today, we celebrate NEPA’s 50th anniversary and its role in protecting our environment as we look forward to improving its implementation for the 21st century.

During today’s address, President Trump reiterated many of the aforementioned points about bringing NEPA into the 21st century.

“Today, we are taking another historic step in our campaign to slash job-killing regulations and improve the qualify of life for all of our citizens,” President Trump said. “These endless delays waste money, keep projects from breaking ground, and deny jobs to our nation’s incredible workers.”

He added, “That is why, for the first time in over 40 years, today we’re issuing a proposed new rule under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to completely overhaul the dysfunctional bureaucratic system that has created these massive obstructions.”

He emphasized the proposed rule change will reflect “strong regulations” that “go very quickly.”

Here are Trump’s full remarks:

The proposed rule to bring NEPA into the 21st century would modernize environmental regulations without burdening “American workers, farmers, and families” by bringing new infrastructure projects to communities nationwide in an expedited fashion.

Per the White House, the proposed rule will:

  • Establish time limits of 2 years for completion of environmental impact statements and 1 year for completion of environmental assessments.
  • Specify page limits, promotes information sharing through modern technology, and better defines environmental effects and other key terms.
  • Reduce unnecessary burdens and delays for environmental reviews.
    Agencies would be allowed to establish procedures for adopting another agency’s determinations to increase efficiency.
  • Improve collaboration with state, local, and tribal governments.

Republican Members of the Western Caucus, House Natural Resources Committee, and House Energy and Commerce Committee praised the Trump Administration for announcing these long-awaited changes to the NEPA review process.

“Enacted with the best intentions in mind, NEPA has been hijacked by serial litigants to halt construction on critical infrastructure projects. Under the guise of environmental protection, special interest groups have stopped new roads and bridges, transmission lines, pipelines, and even offshore wind projects dead in their tracks,” said Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar. “Today’s announcement shows the Trump administration’s commitment to ensuring the government works better for the people. Streamlining NEPA will create a more efficient and certain time line for new projects, while ensuring we safeguard our environment for the future.”

“There has been nothing more detrimental to the development of transportation, clean water, and energy infrastructure than America’s broken environmental review and permitting process,” said House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT). “Today, the Administration took another step forward in bringing logic and rationality to the federal bureaucracy. Reducing redundancies, enhancing coordination with states and tribes, clarifying ambiguous terms, and establishing time frames for the completion of paperwork is the 20/20 vision we needed. Fringe-left special interest groups will continue to scream bloody murder, but these actions by President Trump will ensure the government works better for all.”

“I applaud the Trump Administration’s update to the NEPA review process, which will cut down on bureaucratic red-tape hindering national and local projects,” said House Energy Action Team Co-Chair Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). “Through a more efficient and less complex permitting process, we can more efficiently construct energy infrastructure, coastal restoration, and flood protection projects in Louisiana and across the country while still protecting our environment. While Democrats propose new job killing legislative proposals, this announcement is a strong step in the right direction and will result in more shovels in the ground on projects that improve Americans’ everyday lives.”

“The Trump Administration should be commended for modernizing the National Environmental Policy Act regulations, a move that has been long overdue,” added Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC). “These regulations haven’t seen a comprehensive update in over 40 years, so I’m pleased to see President Trump deliver on his promise to streamline outdated processes, eliminate red-tape, and create efficient standards in order to properly evaluate environmental impacts in the 21st century.” 
 

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