I’m losing my voice. Not from cheering for the Dallas Cowboys last night. Not from trying to get 7th grade girls to listen during basketball practice. I’m losing my voice because of what is Congress is doing to shut me - and you - out of federal decisions that affect our communities.
It's happening because Congress is trying to water down the National Environmental Policy Act. This may be the most important environmental law that you’ve never heard of. NEPA is what guarantees you a say in whether your local wetlands are swallowed up by commerical development. NEPA is what guarantees you a say in how federal funds are used to rebuild parts of New York after Hurricane Sandy. NEPA is what guarantees you a say in the fracking that is being planned in your nearby national forest.
Signed into law by President Richard Nixon over 40 years ago, NEPA requires federal agencies to analyze the impacts of major actions being considered – including impacts on air, water, land, community services and health. NEPA requires federal agencies to provide the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed action and other options.
Believe it or not, Congress is about to take away those requirements. Congress is about to take away your voice.
Members of this Congress have introduced over 30 bills that reduce the environmental review and public participation NEPA requires for federal decisions.
Last year, Congress approved a bill (Pub. Law No. 112-141) that limits the public's say in transportation projects. Now, Congress is poised to approve a bill (S. 601/ H.R. 3080) that limits the public’s say for water projects. Oil/ gas drilling (H.R. 1965) and pipelines (H.R. 1900) – like Keystone XL – are next.
Unfortunately, gargling with salt water isn’t going to bring your voice back. Calling your Congressman might. Most people do not realize what is at stake. Our Congressmen and women, whom we rely on to protect our interests, don’t either. I’ve been working in our nation’s capital for more than 20 years. I’ve seen some scary ideas proposed in Congress. Proposals based on fiction, rather than fact. Proposals based on doing things fast, rather than well. What terrifies me now is that these proposals are on their way to becoming law. You may not know what you are losing until it is gone. I became a lawyer to have a voice and give others a voice. I hope you’ll join me in standing up for NEPA so that it can continue to stand up for you.