Lawsuit Seeks To Overturn Changes To National Environmental Law
Friday, July 31, 2020
Photo by Ben Margot AP
A large coalition of environmental and recreational groups is challenging the Trump Administration’s changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.
Those changes were made official this week after President Donald Trump signing an executive order two weeks ago.
At a July 15 Georgia news conference announcing the change, Trump said NEPA is being modernized and simplified, as part of his push to eliminate government regulations.
"We are here today to celebrate a historic breakthrough that will transform the lives of workers and families all across our nation," Trump said. “For decades, the single biggest obstacle to building a modern transportation system has been the mountains and mountains of bureaucratic red tape in Washington, D.C."
Critics decried the changes and they said there will be fewer environmental and public reviews of projects on federal lands.
More than 20 groups are suing the Trump Administration over the change.
The Western Environmental Law Center, the Center for Biological Diversity, Earth Justice, and the National Parks Conservation Association are just some of the organizations asking to have the changes overturned.
“These changes are so substantial that they really change the fundamental playing field and the legal framework under which federal agencies make decisions,” said Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center.
The executive order undermines an important cornerstone of the nation’s environmental protections and Brown said the law has worked to protect delicate habitat for decades.
“We talk about the National Environmental Policy Act as the Magna Carta of American environmental law. And it really was,” Brown said. “It was a sea change. It was promulgated in 1979 and so it had the benefit of the 1960s and 1970s where we had a growing awareness of the environmental and social justice issues associated with federal actions.”
The federal suit was filed in the northern district of California.
There is no request for an injunction to put the changes on hold until there’s a ruling in the case.
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