This is the website version of the Stash, June 2020 edition.
Winter Wildlands Alliance stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters in calling for an end to systemic racism and violence against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. We support the people and organizations that are leading this movement, and we will continue to work with them toward a better future.
Environmental laws are as critical in the fight for environmental justice and addressing many of the impacts of systemic racism as they are for protecting public lands. Right now, these laws are facing unprecedented threats. If we don’t fight for them we will lose them. There’s a lot happening right now and we can’t let anything slip through the cracks. We are working to defend these laws so we can get to a better future. A future where everybody and every community breathes clean air, drinks clean water, and feels welcome and safe in public spaces, including when recreating on public lands.
—Winter Wildlands Alliance
Environmental Justice Is Social Justice
We are launching a campaign to stand up for the National Environmental Policy Act. Join us by texting “ProtectNEPA” to 52886.
In America, communities of color disproportionately feel the impacts of pollution and big industry. Last week, President Trump signed an executive order to fast-track environmental review of major projects, citing the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Section 6 of the order details emergency regulations and procedures for the National Environmental Policy Act: “These regulations provide that when emergency circumstances make it necessary to take actions with significant environmental impacts without observing the regulations, agencies may consult with CEQ to make alternative arrangements to take such actions.”
Let’s be clear. This Executive Order is yet another deep stab in our nation’s cornerstone environmental law—the National Environmental Policy Act—to accelerate the administration’s “energy first” agenda.
Environmental justice is social justice and the National Environmental Policy Act is a critical tool in ensuring both. We have to get the attention of Congress. We must ask our representatives to hold the White House accountable. Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act in an overwhelming bipartisan vote 50 years ago, and now they must help us save it. The pandemic has rightly taken a top priority for Congress, and yet, as the nation focuses on responding to protests for the Black Lives Matter movement and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration keeps ramping up its attack on the environment.
‘NEPA Is a Public Health Law’
Chair of the U.S. House of Natural Resources Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz) released a statement on the administration’s Executive Order:
“Black, brown, and under-resourced communities have suffered the devastating impacts of environmental racism for generations; the fact that Black Americans are dying at a much higher rate from coronavirus exposes the deadly consequences of this truth. Today, President Trump is dealing another blow to the Black community, during a worldwide pandemic and nearly a week into nationwide Black Lives Matter protests against policy brutality and structural racism. Gutting NEPA takes away one of the few tools communities of color have to protect themselves and make their voices heard on federal decisions impacting them. NEPA is a public health law as well as an environmental law, and as we’ve seen time and time again, this administration considers public health and environmental laws nothing more than roadblocks to their anti-environmental agenda. This is another attack on Black communities and communities of color by President Trump.”
NEPA Tumbling Down
Imagine a Jenga Tower. You can lose a lot of blocks before it falls, but a key piece will bring it all down. Clean Water. Public Lands. Climate Mitigation. Public Health. Your voice and ability to participate. They’re all stacked on top of NEPA.
The White House wants to see 50 years of environmental protections fall apart. Pull NEPA and the rest will come tumbling down.
Why Do We Need to Save the National Environmental Policy Act?
In early January, the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality proposed to rewrite the rules of the National Environmental Policy Act. The overhaul is an attempt to streamline the environmental review process in such a way that benefits polluters and big corporations and strips apart the rigorous and transparent process of decision-making that has been in place for 50 years. This fits with the President’s agenda to deregulate the environment, making it easier to drill, mine, and otherwise extract fossil fuels and natural resources from America’s most fragile landscapes, in the name of energy dominance.
The administration’s strategy to overhaul the National Environmental Policy Act is effective. They are rewriting the rules in a way that will bypass Congress. While the Council on Environmental Quality accepted public comment on their proposal, we expect the administration to favor corporate interests over the public’s and continue with their agenda.
Our representatives need to hear from their constituents—that’s you and us—about the urgent need to protect the National Environmental Policy Act. Ask your representatives to exercise their oversight duties and review and monitor the White House as they finalize the new regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act.
Frequently Asked Questions
The National Environmental Policy Act was signed into law on January 1, 1970. For 50 years, it has helped the government consider the environment in its decision-making. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about the law, how it’s implemented, and what it means for outdoor enthusiasts.
Out There: What We’re Reading
Essential reading about the National Environmental Policy Act
“When it comes to trying to unravel this nations’ environmental protection laws, this administration never sleeps.” In the New York Times.
The administration’s executive order to bypass environmental review is a “giveaway to the oil, gas, and extractive industry that has backed Trump.” From E&E News.
“For more than 50 years, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has served as the foundation of reasonable, balanced and transparent protections for our environment. Our health, safety, and environment depend on it.” ProtectNEPA.org.