Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, rebuked and warned against the newly released draft regulations proposed by the Donald Trump administration that would drastically weaken implementation of the bedrock National Environmental Policy Act, which is the only law that requires the federal government to analyze the environmental impacts of its actions, and which allows for public input in federal decision-making.
“Fifty years ago, Republican President Richard Nixon signed the landmark National Environmental Policy Act into law,” said Carper. “What followed was decades of environmental progress that went hand in hand with public participation in project planning and the federal decision-making process. For countless American communities, the law has served as a bulwark against projects and other activities that could harm the environment, human health or quality of life.”
“On New Year’s Day, President Trump observed the 50th anniversary of NEPA with a presidential message — but rather than actually paying tribute to the enduring legacy of this bedrock law, President Trump was merely paying lip service,” said Carper. “Today, just days after the president avowed his commitment to environmental protection, the Trump administration has proposed what could be the most significant effort yet to limit environmental protection.”
“NEPA requires federal agencies to engage the public and consider the real environmental costs and potential consequences of all types of projects, for example: the impact of an oil spill to coastal communities, the impact of a new levee or dam on flooding in neighboring communities, the impact of a pipeline explosion for a tribal community and whether or not a new bridge we build will be washed away by extreme weather fueled by climate change,” said Carper. “By directing federal agencies to disregard long-term and cumulative impacts of projects, this proposal takes a sledgehammer to decades of legal precedence and puts our communities at risk. It is like putting permanent blinders on, and ignoring reality when deciding whether to build a project. This proposal is particularly dangerous for frontline and vulnerable communities that have already been disproportionately exposed to pollution, such as air pollutants from nearby highways or legacy pollutants from industrial sites.”
“Another unacceptable element of this proposal is allowing companies to prepare their own environmental impact statements,” said Carper. “We should not be giving self-graded take home exams to polluting companies. And allowing merely 60 days for public comment on these sweeping changes is not nearly enough time to fully consider its broad, far-reaching implications.”
“As we examine NEPA’s legacy over the last 50 years, we should be looking to the future. And at a time when we need to be clear-eyed about our climate reality and do everything we can to save our planet, this proposal turns a blind eye to the climate crisis and forsakes our promise to future generations,” said Carper. “So, rather than starting a conversation about how we can work together to improve and build upon this monumental environmental law, what starts now is our fight to save it.”