Congressional National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Task Force, chaired by Eastern Washington Representative Cathy McMorris (R), held their final wrap up hearing in Washington, D.C. A report of their findings is slated for November 30, 2005. Though the NEPA Task Force claims to have heard mostly from interests supporting changes to NEPA during the field hearings, they were met by strong support for the landmark environmental law and were told by witnesses, as well as by 10 former Chairs of the Council on Environmental Quality, that the National Environmental Policy Act did not need legislative change. Unfortunately the Task Force has largely ignored this viewpoint, as well as largely ignoring the people most acquainted with NEPA's implementation--those men and women who work in federal agencies responsible for complying with the act.
Despite the support NEPA enjoys and even though the Task Force has not officially wrapped up, nor have their findings been formally presented, legislation to change NEPA is expected soon. Nowhere is the expectation greater than within the oil and gas industry which on the morning the final hearing hosted an event with Representative Cathy McMorris (R-WA) titled "UPDATING NEPA: the legislative work begins."
To see the corporations behind the rewrite of NEPA, Click Here where you can download a PDF.
The NEPA Task Force Needs to Hear from You!
Throughout the field hearings, Representatives McMorris, Pombo and others have publicly stated that they intend to seek legislative changes to our bedrock environmental law, weakening both NEPA and the rights the public currently enjoys under it, despite previous statements that the Task Force was going to listen to input from around the country before deciding what, if any recommendation they would make.
It is vital that we continue to build the public record in support of NEPA and public participation in federal decision making. Please use the sample letter and talking points below to create your own unique comments to be entered into the record for the hearing.
Comments Needed by November 23rd (which is to say, day after tomorrow, following November 17 hearing)
Use the sample letter below to comment on the importance of NEPA. Send your letter to:
firstname.lastname@example.org (or fax to 202-225-5929) and send a copy of your comments to email@example.com.
Please also send a copy of your comments to your Representative/Senators, so they know that this issue is important to you. Go to www.congress.org to look up your Members of Congress.
In your comments, explain why NEPA is important to you. You are encouraged to include specific examples of how public participation in the NEPA process provided critical input to protect human health, the quality of life of your community, and the environment, and how the choice of alternatives led to informed decision-making and improved projects.
To: House Resource Committee NEPA Task Force
Please enter these comments into the record for the NEPA Task Force Hearing on November 17, 2005. I hope my comments about the importance of the National Environmental Policy Act are reflected in your final report.
At its most basic level NEPA is about having an informed democracy. It is the primary law that gives me a voice in decisions made by my government that could harm the air I breathe, the water I drink and the bountiful public lands that make up our American heritage. NEPA is also the guarantee that Americans affected by a major federal action will get the best information about its impacts on our community, a choice of good design alternatives to minimize damage, and the right to have our voice heard before the government makes a final decision. NEPA ensures balance, common sense and openness in federal decision-making; it is an effective tool to keep 'Big Government' in check.
NEPA protects and empowers the public. It makes sure the local community is not left out of decisions, and it requires the Government to base these decisions on good information. Maintaining and strengthening the community's voice in decisions on federal projects is critical to making wise choices that enhance the quality of life in our communities.
At the heart of NEPA is its requirement that alternatives must be considered - including alternatives that will minimize possible damage to our health, communities, environment, and our quality of life. Comparing and seeking input on the merits of several alternatives is a core requirement of NEPA. It is the mechanism that forces federal agencies to think outside of the box when approaching projects that may harm our environment or public health.
By making sure that the public is informed and that alternatives are considered, NEPA has stopped some unwise and harmful projects and made countless projects better. Cutting corners on NEPA review can have disastrous consequences for my community and the environment. NEPA makes sure we look before we leap, and any attempts to weaken it will take away our safety net.
Putting limits on public involvement and our right to challenge harmful projects or reducing adequate review of major projects won't avoid controversy or improve projects. NEPA saves time and money in the long run by reducing controversy, building consensus, and ensuring that a project is done right the first time.
Rather than making changes to the NEPA or its regulations, I urge you to ensure that the federal agencies responsible for implementing the law get the resources they need to do the job right and in a timely manner.
BACKGROUND AND KEY POINTS ABOUT NEPA
NEPA - Democracy in Action
The National Environmental Policy Act is the most important environmental law that most Americans have never heard of. Signed into law in 1973, it requires the government to "look before it leaps." Major federal projects must be reviewed for the environmental and public health impacts. If the damage will be significant, alternative designs must be investigated to minimize damage and these options must be shared with the public. California Congressman Richard Pombo will use the NEPA hearings to build a negative public record against NEPA and introduce legislation to overhaul it. We need your help to protect NEPA, so NEPA can continue to protect our communities.
For fact sheets and reports about NEPA, go to:
- NEPA: The Facts
- NEPA: Preventing Mistakes and Making Good Projects Better Since 1970
- Report: NEPA Under Siege
- Bipartisan letter to the House Resources Committee NEPA task force from former CEQ chairs and general counsels.
- NEPA is the guarantee that Americans affected by a federal action will get the best information about its impacts, a choice of good alternatives, and the right to have their voice heard before the government makes a final decision.
- NEPA ensures balance, common sense and openness in federal decision-making, it is an effective tool to keep `Big Government' in check.
- At the heart of NEPA is its requirement that alternatives must be considered - including those that will minimize possible damage to our health, environment or quality of life. NEPA also lets Americans have a say before the government makes its final decision about a project.
- By making sure that the public is informed and that alternatives are considered, NEPA has stopped some damaging projects or made them better.
- Cutting corners can have disastrous consequences, especially when it comes to spending taxpayer money on projects that might harm citizens or their environment.
- There is no need to improve NEPA...because it works.
- Limiting public involvement and weakening environmental review won't avoid controversy or improve projects.
- NEPA saves time and money in the long run by reducing controversy, building consensus, and ensuring that a project is done right the first time.
- NEPA's promise of project review and public involvement must be safeguarded, not sacrificed in the name of speed.
End of American Lands article. On to:
House Resources Committee Majority (Republicans) in ordinary text, Minority/Democrats in italics. See also the committee's web page where you can link to each member's official webpage:
Richard W. Pombo, California, Chairman
Nick J. Rahall II, West Virginia, Ranking Democrat Member
Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii
Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam
Dan Boren, Oklahoma
Henry Brown, South Carolina
Ken Calvert, California
Chris Cannon, Utah
Dennis Cardoza, California
Donna M. Christensen, Virgin Islands
Jim Costa, California
Barbara Cubin, Wyoming
Peter DeFazio, Oregon
Thelma Drake, Virginia
John J. Duncan, Jr., Tennessee
Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, American Samoa
Jeff Flake, Arizona
Luis Fortuno, Puerto Rico
Elton Gallegly, California
Jim Gibbons, Nevada
Wayne T. Gilchrest, Maryland
Louie Gohmert, Texas
Raúl M. Grijalva, Arizona
J.D. Hayworth, Arizona
Stephanie Herseth, South Dakota
Jay Inslee, Washington
Bobby Jindal, Louisiana
Walter B. Jones, Jr., North Carolina
Dale E. Kildee, Michigan
Ron Kind, Wisconsin
Ed Markey, Massachusetts
Cathy McMorris, Washington
Charlie Melancon, Louisiana
George Miller, California
Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado
Grace F. Napolitano, California
Solomon P. Ortiz, Texas
Frank Pallone, Jr., New Jersey
Stevan Pearce, New Mexico
John E. Peterson, Pennsylvania
George P. Radanovich, California
Rick Renzi, Arizona
Jim Saxton, New Jersey
Thomas G. Tancredo, Colorado
Mark Udall, Colorado
Tom Udall, New Mexico
Greg Walden, Oregon
Don Young, Alaska
Finally, a picture of Rep. McMorris, then a map of her district.
Previous diaries in this series:
The Great Pombo Public Lands Giveaway
Vine Deloria, Jr. - You Will Be Missed
Pombo Amendment - What the Press is Saying
All That Glitters -- w/Poll
Budget Reconciliation Passes with Pombo intact