Attorney General Becerra Denounces Unlawful Proposal to Undermine National Environmental Policy Act

Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, co-leading a coalition of 20 attorneys general, filed a comment letter opposing the Trump Administration’s proposed rule to undercut implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The proposal by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) would curtail requirements under NEPA that federal agencies review and assess the impact of their actions on the environment. The proposal would weaken implementation of one of the nation’s preeminent tools for combatting environmental harms, safeguarding public health, and protecting communities from pollution. In their comment letter, the coalition argues that the proposed changes to NEPA’s regulations are unlawful, unjustified, and should be withdrawn.  

“The Trump Administration is rewriting the law in order to fast-track projects that pollute our air and water,” said Attorney General Becerra. “NEPA was enacted to provide a critical check on federal actions in our backyard. My office stands ready to fight against the Trump Administration’s attempt to open countless loopholes for polluters to avoid any NEPA analysis. At the California Department of Justice we will continue to fight for a clean, healthy, and safe environment for all Californians.”

Enacted in 1969, NEPA is one of the nation’s foremost environmental statutes. NEPA requires that before any federal agency undertakes a “major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment,” it must consider the environmental impacts of the proposed action, alternatives to the action, and any available mitigation measures. Numerous federal actions, from the approval of significant energy and infrastructure projects to key decisions concerning the management of federal public lands, require compliance with NEPA. CEQ’s proposed rule would upend the ability of federal agencies to comprehensively evaluate the impacts of their actions on the environment and public health. 

In the comment letter, the coalition asserts that the proposed rule:

  • Violates NEPA and the Administrative Procedure Act;
  • Relies on a deficient rulemaking process that shuts out public participation by providing insufficient notice and limited opportunity for public comment;
  • Limits the scope of impacts considered in environmental reviews, including the impact of greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • Unlawfully and without justification limits the requirement that an agency evaluate reasonable alternatives. 

In August 2018, Attorney General Becerra urged CEQ to carefully consider any changes to NEPA regulations and to prioritize the environment and public health if the Trump Administration chose to move forward with revisions to its guidance.

Joining Attorney General Becerra are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the comment is available here.

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