Attorney General Becerra: We Must Protect and Uphold NEPA, the Foundation of America’s Environmental Protections
SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today pressed the Trump Administration not to weaken the regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This law serves as the cornerstone of America’s environmental regulatory framework. In a 10-state comment letter, Attorney General Becerra urged the Trump Administration’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to carefully consider any changes to NEPA regulations and to prioritize the environment and public health if the Administration chooses to go forward with revisions.
“NEPA has a simple mandate: when our federal agencies make policy and consider proposed projects, they must thoroughly assess how their decisions impact our environment and our public health,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Undermining NEPA and the transparency it provides puts our nation at risk of falling further behind in our fight against climate change. Weakening NEPA’s strong standards hinders our work to protect and improve the environment and the health of all Californians, environmental justice communities in particular. We’re sending President Trump a message: if you roll back the safeguards protecting our nation’s environment and put polluters in the driver’s seat, we will hold you accountable.”
On June 20, 2018, CEQ published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking revealing the Trump Administration’s intention to revise the NEPA regulations. In their comment letter submitted today, the 10 Attorneys General express a number of points and concerns, writing that:
· The current NEPA regulations have successfully safeguarded public health and the environment for decades;
· The Advance Notice does not identify any data demonstrating the need for significant changes in existing NEPA regulations;
· Before CEQ decides to revise the NEPA regulations, it should first collect and analyze data on NEPA’s implementation and effectiveness; consider what, if any, revisions are justified by that data; and accurately report the effect that any revisions would have on future federal actions and the environment;
· Any CEQ revisions to the NEPA regulations must be supported by substantial evidence and must prioritize protection of the environment, public health, and public participation over administrative expedience; and
· Any revisions to the NEPA regulations should incorporate CEQ’s guidance on environmental justice and climate change.
Attorney General Becerra has taken a number of actions in recent weeks to protect the environment in California and nationwide. On August 16, 2018, the Attorney General opposed the Trump Administration’s attempt to impose a new anti-science rule that restricts EPA’s ability to consider sound, robust science simply because the sensitive health data of a study’s participants remain private. On August 13, 2018, he joined a multistate coalition expressing grave concern over the Trump Administration’s proposed Cost-Benefit Rule, which has the potential to overstate costs to industry and underemphasize the environmental and public health benefits in analyses of future regulations. He joined a multistate comment letter opposing the Trump Administration’s proposal to weaken clean water protections the same day. Attorney General Becerra also recently announced his strong opposition to the Trump Administration's attempt to roll back Clean Car Standards and attack California's right to set our own emissions standards.
The comments were led by Attorney General Becerra, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, and Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. They are joined by the Attorneys General of Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont; and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
A copy of the comment letter is available here.