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."

insideclimatenews.org

Nature is critical to slowing climate change, but it can only do so if we help it first

Biden's climate summit highlighted "nature-based solutions," but political and indigenous leaders agree native peoples should lead the way and researchers warn of pitfalls.

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.

theconversation.com

Gabriel Filippelli: Biden's infrastructure plan targets lead pipes that threaten public health across the US

President Biden has proposed spending $45 billion to replace every lead water pipe and service line in the nation. A public health expert explains why he sees this as a worthwhile investment.
www.kbia.org

St. Louis And EPA leaders push for federal funding to update city's water system

St. Louis and Environmental Protection Agency officials are calling for the passage of President Joe Biden's jobs plan to help update the city's water treatment system to continue to provide safe drinking water.

www.sandiegouniontribune.com

San Diego County moves to organic waste recycling, adds other environmental measures

A plan to recycle yard and food waste was among several climate measures passed Tuesday, including sustainability planning and a native landscaping policy.

stateimpact.npr.org

Pennsylvania: Legislature revives effort to create special standards for conventional drillers

House Bill 1144 allows companies to spill up to five barrels of oil spills and up to 15 barrels of wastewater without reporting them to the state.
www.post-gazette.com

Allegheny County proposal would require polluters to reduce pollution during unfavorable weather

Allegheny County proposes new rules to limit industrial and residential air emissions during temperature inversions.

www.post-gazette.com

Former Hazelwood coke works being considered for green manufacturing plant

The former LTV Coke Works in Hazelwood is one of the sites under consideration for a manufacturing plant being proposed by Nexii Building Solutions, a Canada-based green technology company.