In a move that surprised absolutely nobody, Trump has just taken another chunk out of legislation meant to protect us and the planet on which we live.
Since 1970, the National Environmental Protection Act, commonly known as NEPA, has kept the federal government in check when building things like factories, pipelines, major roadways, or drilling sites, all of which can have massively negative effects on the environment as well as the people who live close to these sites. Predictably, the sites chosen for these projects are almost always close to communities of color. Protecting people and protecting the environment are the two pillars of NEPA to which Trump has taken a massive wrecking ball. Under the new, stripped down law, a project's contribution to climate change does not even need to be considered. And the new procedures and requirements make it nearly impossible for people who live nearby to have any say at all in what is built!
This is an egregious attempt to take away the rights of the people and expand the already massive power and wealth of the fossil fuel and construction industries! Sign the petition and demand that Trump restore NEPA to its original version immediately!
Climate change is already a global emergency, with scientists agreeing that if we have not taken enough steps by 2030 to curb the climb of the world's temperatures, we will be past the point of no return. The reality is that NEPA was not doing enough to curb greenhouse gas emissions from construction projects and their lasting effects. But now it's even worse! By completely eliminating the requirement for a climate change assessment, a highway could be built without any consideration for the toll the construction will take on the land nor the cumulative effect -- what experts agree is the real issue -- that the vehicles on that highway over time will have on greenhouse gas emission levels. An oil pipeline could tear through a landscape before we ever find out the possible consequences of its presence. Disastrous pollution in the form of leakage or spills are common for these pipelines and devastate local plant and animal life.
And if those folks who are most affected by these projects want to speak up? Well, that will be harder than ever. NEPA used to leave room for suggestions and pushback from local communities near these sites. But under Trump's new configuration, or gutting, of the law, the technical requirements of any feedback would take countless hours or money to pay an expert to complete -- time and money that these communities rarely have.
Take, for example, what is happening in the North Slope of Alaska. In the midst of COVID-19, when attending community gatherings or public comment hearings is out of the question, the Bureau of Land Management announced that it would go ahead with the Willow Oil Project, a massive expansion of drilling in the area. One local conservationist called it "a massive project that threatens wildlife, exacerbates climate change and impacts indigenous culture and food security." And under the combined effects of COVID-19 and these recent NEPA rollbacks, local villagers can do almost nothing to protect themselves and their land.
The consequences of the new NEPA are already becoming apparent, and things will only get worse as Trump pushes every construction project he can during this election year. We must stop him before any more damage is done. Sign the petition and demand that the Trump Administration restore NEPA to the way it was meant to be -- protecting people and the environment!