On June 4, 2020, the President released an executive order waiving the environmental review process for some infrastructure projects and using the pandemic as justification, writing, “as agencies respond to situations involving immediate threats to human health or safety, or immediate threats to valuable natural resources, they must consider whether there is sufficient time to follow the procedures for environmental review established in the CEQ Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of NEPA and agency NEPA implementing procedures and regulations.”
In response to President Trump’s order, which will allow agencies to push through protects without the appropriate review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks issued the following statement:
“Months ago, the administration proposed sweeping changes to the way federal agencies comply with NEPA. The Coalition submitted extensive comments to the Council on Environmental Policy (CEQ) and testified in two public hearings that the proposed changes would have serious and detrimental impacts to the way NPS plans for projects and involves the public in decision making.
Now, NEPA is again under attack from this administration, further jeopardizing the continued protection of national parks.
The current CEQ regulations already allow for “alternative arrangements” when agencies face natural disasters, such as fire, flooding, chemical spills, and earthquakes. Under the existing provision, a federal agency consults with CEQ to determine a course of action and decide whether or not a situation requires an immediate response without conducting an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment. However, the long-term disaster response and the recovery actions remain subject to the regular NEPA process.
The President’s recent executive order is not only unnecessary, it represents a real threat to our national parks. It means that ongoing projects may be considered “an emergency” simply due to economic reasons. And national parks are already vulnerable to proposed large scale infrastructure projects that can impact the irreplaceable natural and cultural resources that parks exist to protect.
While the Coalition supports appropriate response to the pandemic, as well as a stable workforce and economy, we do not agree that our parks should be sacrificed for the “emergencies” envisioned by this Executive Order.
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