Coastal Preservation, Ocean Protection, Updates, Climate Change, Water Quality
January 21 2020

The Federal Administration Wants to Gut the National Environmental Policy Act

by Pete Stauffer

The federal administration has announced plans to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, one of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws. A public comment period is open until March 10th.

The Trump administration continued its assault on environmental protections this month by taking aim at the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Often referred to as the “magna carta” of environmental legislation, NEPA was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970 to ensure that major federal actions would be subject to environmental review and public input. Unfortunately, the current administration's policies have made it clear that its priorities lie elsewhere.

The federal administration's proposed rule would undermine the purpose of NEPA in a variety of ways. First, many federal actions would now be exempt from review under the law. This means that numerous projects affecting our public lands and waters would no longer be analyzed for environmental impacts. The rule change would also restrict the public’s ability to provide input on federal decision making. In many cases, NEPA is the only law that provides local communities the ability to weigh in on federal projects that impact their health and the environment.

Under revised NEPA rules, oil and gas pipelines could be fast-tracked for approval

Perhaps most troubling, the rule change would effectively exclude climate change impacts from consideration under NEPA. Currently, federal agencies are required to study a proposed action’s direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on climate change, including its anticipated carbon footprint. However, under the proposed change, agencies would no longer need to do so, even for an action as extreme as opening all U.S coasts to offshore drilling. Given the climate crisis affecting the planet, such a proposed change is both foolhardy and hostile to the public interest.

So what does all this mean exactly? Well, if you’re among the millions of Americans who value your public lands and waters, it means your interests are being dismissed in favor of the oil and gas industry and other corporate polluters. The administration's proposal is nothing short of a submission to special interests, including those industries most responsible for the global climate crisis.

The good news is that opposition to the federal administration's plan has been swift and bipartisan. This includes Congress where a Democrat and Republican co-authored a letter signed by House members from across the U.S. opposing the administration’s plan. Now, it’s your turn to provide feedback to the administration before our National Environmental Policy Act is gutted.

The Trump administration is required to accept public comments until March 10, and it’s valuable for us to generate a big public outcry in support of NEPA’s core values. After the comment period, the administration will review public feedback and draft its final plan.

The Surfrider Foundation urges you to submit comments to the federal administration by following the instructions below or completing the action alert from our partners at the Outdoor Alliance. You can also call your representatives in the Senate and House to urge them to oppose the proposal.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is accepting public comments on the proposal until March 10, 2020

To submit comments online:

Go to and follow the online instructions for submitting comments to Docket ID No. CEQ-2019-0003

To submit comments by mail:

Council on Environmental Quality
730 Jackson Place NW
Washington, DC 20503
Attn: Docket No. CEQ-2019-0003

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