Opposing the Rollback of NEPA Regulations: Why the Jackson Foundation is Speaking Up

Yesterday the Jackson Foundation raised its voice in support of Senator Jackson’s crowning achievement in environmental policy, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Shortly after the legislation’s 50th anniversary on January 1, 2020, the Administration put forward a proposed rule that would fundamentally alter the implementation of NEPA, known as the “Magna Carta” of the nation’s environmental laws. If adopted, the sweeping changes would significantly weaken it.

The federal government takes public comments as part of its rule-changing process and the Jackson Foundation took that opportunity to submit a comment letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The Foundation’s comment letter follows the recent Op-Ed published in the Seattle Times by Craig Gannett and Peter Jackson on behalf of the Foundation, in which they emphasized the need to preserve the robust application of NEPA.

The Jackson Foundation has never before weighed in on proposed federal rule changes. We took this step into the public policy sphere for two reasons. First, we can offer a unique perspective as the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, an organization steeped in Senator Jackson’s legislative accomplishments, and one that has furthered the work and ideas of the Senator.

Second, the Foundation has for several years called attention to the impact of climate change on our national security. Amplifying the voices of military leaders, we have highlighted how climate change is impacting national and global security, and will continue to do so until greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced. We believe that the proposed changes to NEPA’s implementation would undermine the consideration of climate change in federal decision making, which our nation and world simply cannot afford.

In our letter, we call upon the CEQ to withdraw the proposed rule and substantially revise it for further public comment. The changes would have a number of potentially harmful impacts, including the distortion of NEPA’s basic purposes; the elimination of essential elements of analysis, such as the consideration of cumulative impacts and reasonable alternatives; and the constraints placed on public participation. All of these would significantly weaken our efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

NEPA provides that “each person should enjoy a healthful environment and that each person has a responsibility to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the environment.” In this spirit, the Jackson Foundation has a responsibility to speak out when such sweeping and detrimental changes are being proposed to the implementation of legislation that has long protected our shared natural environment. We join forces with the many other voices opposing these changes.

-Maura Sullivan, Program Officer

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