We believe restoring the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) needs to be a top priority for the Biden Administration. NEPA ensures federal decision making is transparent, scientifically informed, and that the public has an opportunity to share their input. It requires Federal agencies to engage in a project review process that identifies the environmental, cultural, economic, and health impacts of a proposed project, as well as offering a round of alternative considerations to the plan before a final decision is made.
The Council on Environmental Quality’s 2020 changes to the NEPA implementing regulations mark a significant departure from how the government has previously interpreted this landmark environmental law. Rather than prioritizing transparency, science-based decision making, and environmental protection, the 2020 regulations limit public participation, restrict the scope of environmental analyses, and are wholly intended to fast-track approval for development and infrastructure projects. These policy changes raise major concerns not only for the protection of public lands and outdoor recreation, but for the health and well-being of communities across the country who rely on clean air, water and a healthy climate.
The NEPA rollback was accomplished through a rulemaking process and it will take more rulemaking to restore it. Rulemaking is the process that federal agencies use to create or change regulations. In general, Congress first sets broad policy mandates by passing statutes, then agencies create more detailed regulations through rulemaking.
Restoring Roadless protections for the Tongass National Forest will also require a rulemaking process.
Rulemaking, of course, isn’t a guarantee – in much the same way that we and other conservation organizations have sued the current administration to stop new Rules from going into effect, industry groups will likely challenge anything published by the Biden Administration. But, having the Biden Administration write (another) new NEPA Rule is our surest bet for restoring the National Environmental Policy Act and other important environmental protections.
Currently, our next best step is to tell the Biden administration that NEPA is a priority. We are requesting they work quickly to overturn and revise CEQ’s 2020 NEPA implementing regulations, and consider adding this item to Biden’s first 100 days priority list. These regulations pose a significant threat to public health and public lands and they cannot stand. A new Rulemaking process is necessary to restore the National Environmental Policy Act.
Sign our petition with American Alpine Club to let the new administration know NEPA needs to be a priority. And, if you’re able, give to Winter Wildlands today to support our policy work for campaigns like this.