AG opposes plan to undermine National Environmental Policy Act

Attorney General Leevin T. Camacho. (PNC file photo)

Attorney General Leevin Taitano Camacho, joining 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 the implementation of one of the nation’s preeminent tools for combating 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letter, the coalition argues that the proposed changes to NEPA’s regulations are unlawful, unjustified, and should be withdrawn.

“NEPA has given us a voice in all these years of planning for the military buildup. It is one of the most important tools Guam has had in guaranteeing participation and transparency in planning federal projects that have the potential for significant impacts on our environment, culture, and society,” said AG Camacho. “I will continue to oppose changes that gut NEPA and weaken our ability to monitor and participate in the planning of these projects for Guam.”

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 proposed military training and construction to the approval of significant energy and infrastructure projects, 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 rule-making 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.

Attorney General Camacho joined the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia in filing the comment letter. (press release)