With the nation’s eyes fixated on the two major crises of 2020—the coronavirus global pandemic and the racial justice movement sparked by the murder of George Floyd—President Trump signed an executive order waiving key requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The landmark 1970 law requires the federal government to consider the environmental impact on proposed federal actions, including oil and gas drilling, and the laying of pipelines. The NEPA was originally created to require the federal government to inform the citizenry of how projects will impact their communities, even considering the long-term impact.
The Trump Administration’s executive order weakens the law in two ways. First, it deletes the requirement to forecast the “long-term” or cumulative impact of the project. One can see how that would soften the blow for environmental impact if we only had to disclose next week’s impact versus one showing the impact 50 years from now. Second, it allows for a loophole for reporting in the case of “national crisis.” There are many scientists, business leaders and regular citizens concerned about the Trump administration using the current coronavirus pandemic as a pretext for foregoing environmental impact reports.
C3 joins those calling for this administration to be fully transparent about the long-term environmental impact of federal projects. Yes, regulation can be costly and keep more attorneys and accountants employed than we want to support with our tax dollars. However, the bypassing or rushed push through of these studies will more likely harm the earth than we can imagine. Let’s pay attention and disclose what we are doing to the earth, before we start ripping it apart for our immediate economic interests.