Credit: VCU Capital News Service/flickr

Peter Dykstra: President Trump’s stealthiest environmental attack may be his biggest.

If you haven't heard of NEPA, you're not alone.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the most sweeping environmental law on America's books.


It requires a thorough study of the environmental impact of any major federal construction project, law or regulation before it becomes the law of the land.

Thus, NEPA has become the bane of the existence of many a developer or "anti-environment" policymaker since that sly ol' treehugger, Richard Milhous Nixon, signed it into law nearly 50 years ago, on January 1, 1970.

The law also created the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the leading White House environmental advisors.

But a president who is most often compared to Nixon seems hell-bent on crippling or wiping out several Nixon-era creations, including NOAA, EPA, the Clean Air Act, NEPA, and the Clean Water Act (which Nixon actually vetoed as too costly, but an environmentally bipartisan Congress overrode the veto).

The push for NEPA is largely credited back then to Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a pro-Vietnam War Democratic Senator who exhibited pro-conservation tendencies from time to time. The law called for a process that often took three to five years to measure up, say, a roadbuilding project that might cross swords with an endangered species listing or prospective Clean Water Act violation. (Note: Trump has already found ways around NEPA – for example, exempting the habitat-destroying Border Wall from a multitude of enviro laws, including NEPA.)

A few years ago, the Natural Resources Defense Council defended NEPA's successes with an exhaustive rundown citing examples from all 50 states. But even NEPA's staunchest defenders concede that three to five years' delay on projects can be as burdensome as its requirement for public comment are helpful.

Power transmission line and pipeline projects, including the longstanding tussle over the Keystone XL Pipeline, are front and center lines of conflict in Congress, in court, and in a potentially "streamlined" NEPA process.

An environmental battle that's nearly as venerable as NEPA itself could be drawn into the mix next year. As the Trump Administration pushes for oil drilling in the the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, conservationists and Indigenous Alaskans are fighting the drilling in a portion of the sprawling refuge. The Interior Department has moved directly to leasing without a full environmental review, something experts say goes directly against NEPA.

For environmentalists, NEPA's requirements for public input could be a major loss. After all, their whimsical play on the NEPA acronym is "Never Eliminate Public Advice."

abcnews.go.com

As seaweed becomes a top crop in East Africa, a new program will help farmers grow it sustainably

The Nature Conservancy is launching a new program in Zanzibar to help seaweed farmers develop sustainable practices and improve the resiliency of the important crop.

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

www.dw.com

Biodiversity blooms in cities when green spaces go wild

Cities are leaving once manicured green spaces to rewild with native flowers and grasses that attract more diverse insects, birds and wildlife.

news.mongabay.com

'In the plantations there is hunger and loneliness': The cultural dimensions of food insecurity in Papua

As palm oil companies take over their land, the Marind people of southern Papua, are struggling to feed themselves.

Top Amazon deforestation satellite researcher sacked by Bolsonaro

Just days after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro got the bad news that the Amazon 12-month deforestation rate has risen 96% since he took office, his administration fired the researcher overseeing monitoring.
news.mongabay.com

U.N.’s grand plan to save forests hasn’t worked, but some still believe it can

The world's tropical forests are in serious trouble, with deforestation worsening and the sixth mass extinction accelerating faster than scientists previously thought.

www.politico.com

Will your next salmon come from a massive land tank in Florida?

Move aside, fake meat. The future of protein might be salmon raised in a huge, air-conditioned suburban building.
www.wired.com

Your car is spewing microplastics that blow around the world

When you drive, tiny bits of plastic fly off your tires and brakes. And all that road muck is blowing into “pristine" environments like the Arctic.

From our Newsroom

Big Oil flows a little bit backward

Pipelines have had a very bad July (so far).

Beyond the “silver lining” of emissions reductions: Clean energy takes a COVID-19 hit

With job loss and stifled development in the renewable energy sector, economists, politicians, and advocates say policy action is necessary to stay on track.

A fracking giant's fall

Chesapeake Energy was a fracking pioneer on a meteoric rise. Last week, it fell to Earth.

Our annual summer reading list, 2020 edition

EHN staff shares their top book recommendations for the summer.

Coronavirus is creating a crisis of energy insecurity

Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to unpaid bills and energy shutoffs in many vulnerable US households. Indiana University researchers warn we need to act now to avoid yet another health emergency.

Ode to Jersey

From shark attacks to the "syringe tide"—a brief look at the highs and lows of New Jersey's environmental past.

The Daily Climate

Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers.

Don't get left in the rain! Join our Daily Climate newsletter!