In response to the Council for Environmental Quality’s finalized first phase to revise the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Russell Armstrong, Senior Climate Policy Advisor for Oxfam America, made the following statement:
“NEPA is a bedrock environmental law meant to protect communities and ecosystems, ensure those on the frontlines of dangerous infrastructure have a seat at the decision-making table, and challenge projects with high emissions potential or those that violate rights to clean air and water.
“We commend the Biden administration for restoring some of the key pieces of NEPA that the Trump administration removed, such as the requirements that agencies consider cumulative and indirect effects during environmental reviews. The Phase 1 revisions also remove ambiguity that would allow federal agencies to consider corporate concerns over those of the public when permitting pipeline extensions, highway expansions, and forests removals.
“However, this revision is just the first step. It is critical for NEPA to do more to ensure all government agencies provide environmental justice for frontline communities. As the courts weigh the federal role in regulating for clean air, and roadblocks in Congress have stalled Biden’s climate agenda and clear incentives for clean energy production, it is imperative that federal agencies undertake more stringent environmental reviews of projects that endanger the US’s ability to meet global commitments to future generations.
“The US and the world is still off track keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and this administration must do more to ensure that climate change is a key consideration of environmental justice analysis as part of its national environmental policy. As one of the world’s biggest emitters of carbon pollution, the US has an obligation to the global community and those who are most impacted by climate change to lead the effort away from fossil fuels. NEPA has a role to play in that effort. We await CEQ’s Phase 2 rulemaking and call upon the administration to expand the participation of vulnerable communities while addressing climate impacts fully and equitably throughout the NEPA process.”