WASHINGTON (December 21, 2005) -- The Task Force draft report, which was released today without member endorsement, suggests no less than 13 recommendations to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in profound and fundamental ways even though dozens of witnesses and the White House Council charged with overseeing NEPA's implementation have said that NEPA is "as relevant today as when Congress passed it in 1969."
If the report's recommendations are implemented the playing field will be changed dramatically, shifting 30 years of agency practice and judicial interpretation of key elements of this bedrock law. The result will be uncertainty and trepidation for agencies and stakeholders.
Echoing the sentiment of hundreds of Americans from Washington State to Virginia who have expressed how important NEPA is to their communities, we believe this law is integral to maintaining balance and common sense where environmental decision-making is concerned. NEPA is the best tool Americans have to be informed of how federal plans may affect them and to hold their government accountable if it ignores their input, sound science, or better approaches.
As the report acknowledges, nearly every witness and comment submitted to the Task Force mentioned that public participation is fundamental to NEPA's success. Yet, several of the Task Force's recommendations seek to limit who, when, and how the public can participate in all levels of the NEPA process, including appeals and litigation. These recommendations will weaken participation and disenfranchise the public.
The truth remains that NEPA is a process that works to make sure ordinary citizens, not just corporate special interests, have a chance to participate in decisions and to ensure that all consequences are considered before action is taken.
While the Task Force appears to have taken a page from the Bush administration, choosing to release the report on the eve of the holidays, we do look forward to commenting further on the report in the coming weeks.
This statement was issued by American Rivers, Defenders of Wildlife, National Environmental Trust, The Wilderness Society, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Earthjustice, National Wildlife Federation, American Lands Alliance, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council.