Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus and the House United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force are urging President Trump to reverse course on the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) final rule that would fundamentally change the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, further endangering communities of color, economically disadvantaged communities and tribal and Indigenous communities, which are already disproportionally affected by harmful impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, structural racism and longstanding exposure to air, water, and land pollution.

In their letter, 18 U.S. Senators led by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and over 90 members of the House led by U.S. Representatives Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) – members of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus and the House United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force – warned the president that CEQ’s proposed NEPA rollback would eliminate core protections afforded to environmental justice communities.

“For more than 50 years, NEPA has served not only as our nation's preeminent instrument for protection of the environment, but also as a critical tool for civil rights. NEPA and its regulations mandate government agencies to consider the environmental impacts of projects, including any potential costs and consequences for nearby communities, before those projects are executed,” the members wrote. “Subsequently, NEPA has protected Environmental Justice (EJ) communities by ensuring that all adverse impacts of projects are fully examined, and that public input from impacted communities is considered.”

“This administration’s changes to the NEPA regulations will undermine key aspects of the NEPA process and result in the comprehensive dismantling of core protections for EJ communities, with impacts that could potentially last for decades,”
the members continued. “NEPA is essential to protect frontline communities and ensure that their environment, health, and quality of life are preserved for generations to come, especially in EJ communities that have been historically excluded from major decisions that affect them.”

The letter can be found here or below.

July 9, 2020

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President

1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Trump:

We write in strong opposition to the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) final rule to fundamentally change the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The effects of the proposed rule will exacerbate harmful environmental impacts on environmental justice (EJ) communities – communities of color, disadvantaged communities, and Tribal and indigenous communities – which are already disproportionally affected by environmental impacts.

As our nation reels from unprecedented health and economic crises and social unrest, your changes to the NEPA regulations would further endanger the very communities that have faced the greatest burdens of legacy environmental injustice and structural racism. And now these communities are also the hardest hit by the ongoing crises caused by COVID-19. Your unwarranted changes to the NEPA regulations represent an attack on these vulnerable communities when they are most in need of assistance.

For more than 50 years, NEPA has served not only as our nation's preeminent instrument for protection of the environment, but also as a critical tool for civil rights. NEPA and its regulations mandate government agencies to consider the environmental impacts of projects, including any potential costs and consequences for nearby communities, before those projects are executed. Subsequently, NEPA has protected EJ communities by ensuring that all adverse impacts of projects are fully examined, and that public input from impacted communities is considered.

EJ communities live near factories, powerplants, and roadways that regularly expose them to toxic pollution and cause outsized health risks, such as respiratory illness, heart disease, and cancer. Historically, EJ communities have been targeted for projects, and, in turn, continue to experience negative environmental and health impacts. Lauded as landmark environmental justice legislation, NEPA was created to give a voice to those who are often rendered voiceless and has successfully allowed impacted populations to challenge projects that negatively affect their water quality, air quality, economic prosperity, and overall health and safety.

In February 1994, President Clinton issued Executive Order (EO) 12898, titled “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations." EO 12898 directs federal agencies to incorporate environmental justice principles into their operations, and it includes the objective of improving opportunities for community input during the NEPA process.

CEQ’s final revisions to NEPA halt this progress and careen in the opposite direction, threatening to undermine years of hard-fought progress.

For example, CEQ's change to NEPA's implementing regulations to remove the consideration of cumulative impacts and indirect effects would be especially harmful to EJ communities. Allowing federal agencies to disregard the cumulative impacts and indirect effects of a project will have a disastrous effect on EJ communities that have already had higher exposure to land, air, and water pollution, which often stem from multiple legacy or active sources of pollution. Thus, in those communities, comprehensive environmental analysis is essential to determining the long-term, wide­ranging consequences of any federally approved project in totality.

EJ communities already have limited access and ability to participate in federal policy decisions due to the numerous economic, physical, racial, and health barriers they face. They fight to be heard when industrial projects threaten their health and well-being. Under the new rules, companies will be permitted to conduct their own Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This is an affront to EJ communities whose only recourse is often the public input afforded to them during NEPA's current approval process. Companies’ interests lie largely with their profit margins, and often run counter to the interests of the communities directly affected by their actions. Allowing companies to write their own EISs  is akin to offering a self-graded take-home exam. We simply cannot trust every company or businesses to do the right thing when, too often, history has shown us otherwise.

The short public comment period that CEQ allowed for this proposed rule was greatly disproportionate to the scope of its implications. This process was unfair to the millions of people whose neighborhoods and communities will be impacted by the new CEQ regulations, and it stands in stark contrast to the principle of citizen participation on which both NEPA and our democracy were built. These communities deserved the opportunity to be better informed of your changes to the NEPA process, and the lack of a real and meaningful opportunity to provide feedback perpetuates a generations-long series of harmful actions that both disempower and dismiss the needs of marginalized communities and worsen existing inequities.

Disturbingly, CEQ has provided no explanation or analysis to justify these radical changes. The potential for disproportionate impacts should have been considered in a NEPA analysis on the administration’s proposal, but CEQ disregarded its own responsibility to comply with NEPA and prepare an EIS on the proposal. Furthermore, without providing the analysis CEQ says it prepared for review by the public at large and the affected environmental justice communities under EO 12898, CEQ bluntly concluded that the proposed rule “would not cause disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority populations and low-income.”[1] CEQ’s EJ Guidance, which outlines environmental justice principles and considerations in the NEPA process, should be rescinded.

This administration’s changes to the NEPA regulations will undermine key aspects of the NEPA process and result in the comprehensive dismantling of core protections for EJ communities, with impacts that could potentially last for decades. NEPA is essential to protect frontline communities and ensure that their environment, health, and quality of life are preserved for generations to come, especially in EJ communities that have been historically excluded from major decisions that affect them.

Communities that have disproportionately suffered from environmental injustice – and are now hardest hit by the crises caused by COVID-19 – need the government to lift them up, not make them an afterthought in the decisions that will affect their neighborhoods and the health and well-being of their families.

We urge you to undo the changes to CEQ’s NEPA regulations immediately.

Sincerely,

 

_____________________

A. Donald McEachin

Member of Congress

 

_____________________

Pramila Jayapal

Member of Congress

 

_____________________

Nanette Diaz Barragán

Member of Congress

 

_____________________

Thomas R. Carper

United States Senator

 

_____________________

Tammy Duckworth

United States Senator

 

_____________________

Cory A. Booker

United States Senator

 

 

 

_____________________

Benjamin L. Cardin

United States Senator 

 

 

 

_____________________

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator   

 

 

 

_____________________

Richard J. Durbin

United States Senator   

 

 

_____________________

Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senator 

 

 

_____________________

Kamala D. Harris

United States Senator   

 

 

_____________________

Martin Heinrich

United States Senator   

 

 

 

_____________________

Mazie K. Hirono

United States Senator 

 

 

 

_____________________

Amy Klobuchar

United States Senator   

 

 

 

_____________________

Edward J. Markey

United States Senator   

 

 

_____________________

Jeffrey A. Merkley

United States Senator 

 

 

_____________________

Gary C. Peters

United States Senator   

 

 

_____________________

Tina Smith

United States Senator   

 

 

_____________________

Debbie Stabenow

United States Senator 

 

 

_____________________

Chris Van Hollen

United States Senator   

 

 

_____________________

Elizabeth Warren

United States Senator   

 

 

_____________________

Alma S. Adams, Ph.D.

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Joyce Beatty

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Donald S. Beyer Jr.

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Earl Blumenauer

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Lisa Blunt Rochester

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Suzanne Bonamici

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Julia Brownley

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Salud O. Carbajal

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Tony Cárdenas

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

André Carson

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Ed Case

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Sean Casten

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Kathy Castor

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Judy Chu

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

David N. Cicilline

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr.

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Yvette D. Clarke

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Emanuel Cleaver, II

Member of Congress   

 

_____________________

Steve Cohen

Member of Congress 

 

_____________________

Gerald E. Connolly

Member of Congress   

 

_____________________

Danny K. Davis

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Diana DeGette

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Suzan K. DelBene

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Val B. Demings

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Mark DeSaulnier

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Debbie Dingell

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Mike Doyle

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Veronica Escobar

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Anna G. Eshoo

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Adriano Espaillat

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Bill Foster

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Ruben Gallego

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Jesús G. “Chuy” García

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Raúl M. Grijalva

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Deb Haaland

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Jared Huffman

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Sheila Jackson Lee

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Joseph P. Kennedy, III

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Daniel T. Kildee

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Derek Kilmer

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Ann Kirkpatrick

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Ann McLane Kuster

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Rick Larsen

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

John B. Larson

Member of Congress   

 

_____________________

Barbara Lee

Member of Congress 

 

_____________________

Mike Levin

Member of Congress   

 

_____________________

Alan S. Lowenthal

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Stephen F. Lynch

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Doris O. Matsui

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

James P. McGovern

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Jerry McNerney

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Grace Meng

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Grace F. Napolitano

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Joe Neguse

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Eleanor Holmes Norton

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Frank Pallone, Jr.

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Chellie Pingree

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Mark Pocan

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Katie Porter

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Ayanna Pressley

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

David E. Price

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Mike Quigley

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Jamie Raskin

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Raul Ruiz

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Bobby L. Rush

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

John P. Sarbanes

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Mary Gay Scanlon

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Jan Schakowsky

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Robert C. “Bobby” Scott

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

José E. Serrano

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Adam Smith

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Darren Soto

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Jackie Speier

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Thomas R. Suozzi

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Bennie G. Thompson

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Rashida Tlaib

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Paul D. Tonko

Member of Congress 

 

_____________________

Lori Trahan

Member of Congress   

 

_____________________

David Trone

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Juan Vargas

Member of Congress 

 

 

_____________________

Nydia M. Velázquez

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Debbie Wasserman Shultz

Member of Congress   

 

_____________________

Bonnie Watson Coleman

Member of Congress 

 

_____________________

Peter Welch

Member of Congress   

 

_____________________

Susan Wild

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Marcia L. Fudge

Member of Congress 

 

_____________________

Betty McCollum

Member of Congress   

 

_____________________

Ted Deutch

Member of Congress   

 

 

_____________________

Linda T. Sánchez

Member of Congress