19
Sep
2005

Save NEPA: Public's right to know threatened

Center for Biological Diversity

Public's right to know threatened - save NEPA

YOUR COMMENTS NEEDED TO SUPPORT THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT (NEPA) ASK CONGREE TO DEFEND SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS AND CITIZEN PARTICIPATION IN DECISIONS AFFECTING PUBLIC HEALTH AND RESOURCES

The House Resources Committee has formed a NEPA Task Force which will soon make recommendations expected to substantially diminish public and scientific review of federal projects. Write your House and Senate representatives and ask them to fight to maintain, fully fund, and eliminate exceptions to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Reasons to protect NEPA and points you may wish to include in your comments:

1. NEPA ensures that the BEST SCIENCE will be used to design federal projects and minimize damage to public health and public resources

2. NEPA ensures that the public - taxpayers, the owners of public lands and resources - fully participate in decisionmaking about how OUR TAX DOLLARS are spent

3. NEPA ensures that federal agencies consider ALTERNATIVES in order to design projects that minimize risk

4. By minimizing risk and catching bad projects before they are implemented, NEPA AVOIDS UNNECESSARY DAMAGE TO PUBLIC HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT - as well as costly lawsuits and controversy

5. NEPA is integral to our democracy - it costs money and it takes time, but so do most worthwhile endeavors, including democracy itself.

Send a letter to the following decision maker(s):
Your Congressperson
Your Senators
Below is the sample letter:
Subject: Protect democracy, Protect NEPA
Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],
I strongly oppose any changes to or weakening of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

I use public lands for wildlife watching, research, education, and enjoyment. I frequently participate in the NEPA process.

Many depend on the environment for our livelihood. Wildlife-related recreation (plant and wildlife watching, photography, etc.) generates more than $100 billion in annual economic activity in the U.S. and supports countless jobs and businesses. Healthy ecosystems are essential to strong economies

I rely on NEPA to give land and resource managers the information and analyses they need to avoid unnecessary damage to native plants and their habitats. I also rely on NEPA to allow me - as a taxpayer, voter, and member of the public - to keep track of how our tax dollars and public lands are used. NEPA's environmental analysis, public disclosure, and public review requirements help ensure that federal agencies do not engage in activities that threaten our environment, jobs, industries, economies or public health.

The National Environmental Policy Act is not only central to our ability to conserve plants and their habitats; it is also the law which brings the public and democracy into environmental policy and management.

NEPA requires that the best science will be used to design federal projects and minimize damage to public health and public resources. NEPA requires that federal agencies consider alternatives in order to minimize risks.

I understand that some find NEPA's mandates cumbersome, but high quality land and resource management is a cumbersome process, as is democracy itself. NEPA protects the public from careless or dangerous federal actions. If NEPA is weakened, federal bureaucrats will have ever greater and more arbitrary power to determine how our taxes are used and how our resources and public health are protected.

Finally, chronic and severe underfunding and understaffing of the agencies that implement NEPA, not the provisions o f the law itself, are the greatest barrier to timely and complete NEPA analyses. Underfunding and understaffing also contribute to the inadequacy of many NEPA analyses which leads to unnecessary controversy and even litigation. Instead of weakening the law, Congress should increase funding for implementation of the law so that it can function expeditiously and effectively.

Please maintain a strong NEPA. Thank you for your attention to these concerns.

Sincerely,

(your name)

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What's At Stake: The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, another of our bedrock environmental laws, is under attack this Congressional session. NEPA is not only central to our ability to conserve plants and their habitats, IT IS ALSO THE LAW WHICH BRINGS THE PUBLIC AND DEMOCRACY INTO ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY AND MANAGEMENT. NEPA requires that the federal government provide the public with the opportunity to review the impacts of federal projects - such as highway construction, dam construction, pesticide and herbicide use, logging, grazing, or any other federal project which may affect the environment or public health - on OR off public lands. Under NEPA, agencies are required to prepare environmental analyses, such as environmental impact statements, that use the best science to analyze and disclose possible impacts of federal projects. If a project analysis finds significant environmental impacts, alternatives that minimize or eliminate damage must be developed and also submitted for public review. The Bush Administration and Congress have already limited or eliminated NEPA analysis and review requirements for numerous projects and activities including: . Several types of logging on National Forests, even in roadless areas . Airport expansion . Highway construction . Livestock grazing management plans that can be locked in place without public or scientific review for decades RESOURCES COMMITTEE NEPA TASK FORCE: Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), a longtime opponent to NEPA and other environmental laws, has formed a "NEPA Task Force" to develop "reforms" to the law. The Task Force has held hearings, and plans to issue a report and recommendations in the fall. NEPA supporters from the environmental and scientific community have been systematically excluded from the hearings (see abbreviated news story below). The Resources Committee NEPA Task Force is online . News Article on limits on testimony to Resources Committee NEPA Task Force: August 10, 2005 HOUSE NEPA TASK FORCE SHUTTING OUT ENVIRONMENTALISTS A House Task Force formed in April to gather citizen input for possible changes in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)-- the cornerstone of America's environmental protection framework-- has been shutting out access for pro-environment witnesses.

Created by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) a dedicated opponent of environmental regulations, the task force is chaired by Rep. Cathy McMorris (R-WA). "We don't need to have 10 people say nothing needs to be improved," said McMorris, at a recent hearing in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. "We want to hear from the people who have problems with NEPA."

[1] At a hearing in Texas last month, seven of the nine invitees represented industry, and only two were environmentalists.

[2] NEPA is designed to protect natural resources and support public participation in government. The law requires federal officials to make a careful assessment of potential environmental damage for a proposed project, and offer alternatives when necessary. Frustrated that her group was denied the opportunity to discuss NEPA at the Texas hearing, Phyllis Dunham, of the Southern Plains Sierra Club, told BushGreenwatch, "We requested a chance to speak at the hearing, but they did not offer us an invitation." Environmentalists charge that selective invitations aren't the only way the task force has prevented environmental interests from entering the review process, pointing out that inadequate notification of the hearings' times, locations, and invited witnesses have also filtered out environmental concerns.

The Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, the only two environmental groups invited to the hearing, were faxed invitations only days before it was to take place. The task force required the groups to identify a representative and submit their oral and written comments within 24 hours. According to the Club's website, "Both organizations had to decline given the impossible 1-day deadline, and obligations to the pre-existing Fossil Creek community event." Not even Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), the ranking democratic member of the task force could attend the Texas hearing, citing that he was only given two weeks notice. "The task force needs to be better at publicizing where they will be and including all the people who have a stake in this issue," says Udall. "These so-called public hearings are a well kept secret. They are announced at the last minute, witness panels are not revealed until a couple of days beforehand and are usually dominated by industry representatives, and there is no effort to reach out to the public to get them involved," said the Sierra Club's Dunham.

Campaign Expiration Date: October 1, 2005



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