Over the past 50 years, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has become the cornerstone of U.S. environmental law, and nations worldwide have replicated its model.
NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of their actions, including direct action by an agency or the permitting of private activity (like when an agency issues a permit for a private company to frack). The primary decision-making agency must do an environmental assessment of the project. If it imposes a significant impact, then a more in-depth environmental impacts statement is required. That next step is a collaborative process where meaningful involvement from affected communities and stakeholders is absolutely vital because they typically have the most knowledge of the local conditions and history.
Trump’s administration tried to skirt this by changing the way the White House Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) interprets its function, and by silencing those who are meant to be participants in the process. We fought back in court but this case is paused until April 15, 2021 — we expect the Biden Administration to announce that they will be rescinding the Trump NEPA regulations due to their facial illegality.
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