Congresswoman Diana DeGette

Representing the First District of Colorado
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DeGette, Rooney call on Congress to oppose Trump’s proposed revisions to key environmental protection rule

Jan 9, 2020
Press Release
Proposed changes to National Environmental Policy Act would allow federal agencies to ignore impact on climate change

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Francis Rooney (R-FL) are calling on their colleagues in the House to oppose the Trump administration’s latest attempt to gut one of the nation’s most effective environmental protection laws.

In a letter sent to all 435 members of the House, DeGette and Rooney warned their colleagues that a set of proposed revisions the administration announced today to the National Environmental Policy Act would allow federal agencies to ignore the effects of climate change going forward.

“With billions of dollars in damage already being inflicted on our homes, businesses and infrastructure from storms, floods, and wildfires exacerbated by human-caused climate change, … turning a blind eye towards climate change is exactly the wrong direction for federal policy to take,” the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers’ letter to their colleagues comes just hours after the president announced the proposed changes from the White House. Among the changes being sought by the administration is one that would eliminate the NEPA’s current requirement that federal agencies consider how a major federal project – such as the construction of highway or bridge – could impact climate change.

The National Environmental Policy Act, which was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970, requires federal agencies to consider the affect that a proposed federal project would have on the environment before deciding whether or not to approve it.

An agency’s failure to properly consider how a project would impact the environment has often been used by local communities and environmental groups to challenge an agency’s decision to move forward with a project that could devastate the environment. It is one of the few legal avenues available to the public to challenge such a decision.

If finalized, the newly-announced revisions now being sought by the administration would eliminate the current requirements that federal agencies consider how a proposed project could effect climate change. It would also severely limit the public’s ability to challenge an agency’s decision to approve a project that would be detrimental to the environment.

 

Following is the full text of the letter DeGette and Rooney sent to their colleagues today:

January 9, 2020

Dear Colleague,

We invite you to join us in expressing our strong opposition to the Trump Administration’s plans, announced today, to revise the regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in a way that, among other things, ignores the full extent of the climate crisis.

NEPA, signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on January 1, 1970 after passing Congress on an overwhelmingly-bipartisan basis, is often referred to as the Magna Carta of Environmental Policy. Under NEPA, federal agencies are required to make science-based assessments of the environmental effects of proposed major federal actions. Also, critically, NEPA is one of the only statutes that empowers the public to challenge proposed federal actions when made on the basis of inaccurate information or in a way that skirts the government’s legal obligations. Since its enactment half a century ago, NEPA has been the foundational mechanism by which the United States has addressed the often-unintended impacts federal decisions can have on complex environmental systems.

Earlier today, the Trump Administration proposed a broad weakening of the regulations promulgated under NEPA. One of the most critical aspects of the proposed revisions is the removal of the requirement that agencies analyze cumulative impacts under NEPA, which would have the effect of removing any analysis of climate impacts. In particular, under the proposal, the NEPA regulations would be revised to state that “Effects should not be considered significant if they are remote in time, geographically remote, or the product of a lengthy causal chain.” The very nature of the climate crisis, of course, is that climate change impacts – such as sea level rise – can be quite remote in time and geography from the human causes of climate change, including the combustion of natural gas, oil and coal, and the clear-cutting of forests. Climate change, as complex as it is, is exactly the kind of environmental problem NEPA was intended to address.

With billions of dollars in damage already being inflicted on our homes, businesses and infrastructure from storms, floods, and wildfires exacerbated by human-caused climate change; with health impacts already being experienced from increased heat waves, pollution and disease vectors; and with threats to our national security already being amplified by climate impacts in other countries, turning a blind eye towards climate change is exactly the wrong direction for federal policy to take.

If you have any questions or would like to join us in objecting to these revisions by signing onto the following letter, please have your staff contact XXX in Rep. DeGette’s office or XXX in Rep. Rooney’s office. The deadline for signatures is Friday, January 17, 2020 at 12 noon.

Sincerely,

Diana DeGette

Member of Congress

Francis Rooney

Member of Congress