NEPA, in its current form, allows the public to voice concerns about project proposed on federal lands. When the process is followed correctly, NEPA guides agencies to uncover potential issues and address them before the start of a project. It takes far less time and money to thoroughly examine a project before it is implemented, than to deal with failures—or clean up an environmental disaster!
While some complain the NEPA process takes too long, authoritative studies by the Government Accountability Office (2014) and Congressional Research Service (2011, 2012) found the majority of projects receive streamlined reviews. 95% proceed through a “categorical exclusion” in a few days to a few months. Only 1% of projects require a full review and those are projects with the greatest potential for harm. A thorough review not only ensures adherence to NEPA, but also to legislation such as the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and Clean Air Act.
Current NEPA problems result from agencies failing to devote enough time, personnel, or budget to an issue. Cutting or changing parts of the legislation will not improve how agencies respond to issues. We believe there is a problem in how NEPA is implemented, not written.
We cannot trust the current administration to make changes under the guise of improving environmental regulations. This administration has shown complete disregard for science and hostility towards public lands and human health—they have given industry a green light at the expense of environment.
Regarding question 4 from the review:
Should the provisions in CEQ’s NEPA regulations that relate to the format and page length of NEPA documents and time limits for completion be revised, and if so, how?
Limiting the amount of time and extent to which private citizens or organizations can comment inhibits freedom of speech and discourages methodical environmental analysis.Environmental interactions are complex and complicated: to pretend the risks to the environment can be capped at a certain page number is naïve, dangerous, and undemocratic.
Current NEPA requirements require comments to be focused and agencies have the discretion on what issues to consider for analysis. As a result of this administration’s endless Executive Orders, BLM now has the discretion to go forward with oil and gas leasing without public comment; or, only allow 10 days for review of an Environmental Assessment. This is not in keeping with NEPA and CEQ’s mandates to meaningfully engage the public and groups on critical federal proposals.
Regarding question 10 from the review:
Should the provisions in CEQ’s NEPA regulations relating to the timing of agency action be revised, and if so, how?
The current rules are adequate (no agency action within a minimum 90 days after a draft EIS and 30 days after a final EIS). This means an agency cannot rush through the environmental analysis period.