Undermining A Fundamental Environmental Law: What Proposed Revisions to the NEPA Mean For Montana

Since 1970 the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has been a vital tool for the public to ensure that decisions made by federal agencies that impact the environment are made in a transparent, well-informed manner.

NEPA requires agencies to take a “hard look” at the potential impacts of their decisions, consider available alternatives, and provide the public with a meaningful opportunity to become informed about a proposal and to weigh in during the decision-making process.

By requiring the federal government to study the impacts of its decisions and share the information with the public, the NEPA process informs communities and allows them to voice their concerns. Studying impacts and alternatives to a proposed project can also help uncover inefficient, unsustainable, or unfair plans. In this way, NEPA can improve projects, prevent environmental injustices, and save taxpayer money.

The Trump Administration is proposing changes to the regulations that determine how federal agencies implement the NEPA process. These changes would drastically weaken the NEPA process in order to benefit companies that want to plow forward with polluting projects. The revisions include limiting the scope of environmental impacts that agencies must consider, excluding more projects from environmental review, allowing companies to conduct reviews of their own projects, and shifting the burden onto the public to provide expert-level comments.

If these changes are finalized they would undermine the fundamental purposes of NEPA, allowing many dangerous projects to move forward with no or limited environmental review. These changes will especially hurt our most vulnerable communities that are already suffering from environmental injustices. Companies would be given more power to corrupt the outcome of environmental reviews, while concerns expressed by members of the public will be more easily dismissed.

Consider that nearly 1/3 of the land within the Upper Missouri River Basin of Montana is YOUR public land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service. Any proposed use of those lands has, for over 40 years, required NEPA analysis to know, up-front, how a project would affect public resources before any authorization could issue allowing the project.  NEPA’s “Look Before You Leap” requirement has ensured a public and transparent accountability framework that has helped protect the environment and disadvantaged communities countless times. Now, this critical and common sense environmental law is under-attack.

Please join us and stand up for this vitally important environmental law, and file your comments opposing the NEPA regulatory revisions today!