FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Trump Dooms the Future by Gutting the National Environmental Policy Act

Pulp plant, Halsey, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The National Environmental Policy Act, better known as NEPA, has served the nation well for 50 years. But last Friday the Trump administration decided to gut the law via administrative rules changes that will allow virtually unhindered development, resource extraction and pollution. It’s one thing for the Trump cultists to support certain policies, tariffs, sanctions and war-mongering. It’s quite another to allow Trump’s anti-environmental administration to doom the future by leaving generations to come a smoldering, polluted and unlivable planet — which is just what gutting NEPA will do.

In a nutshell, NEPA requires the government to consider the environmental effects prior to issuing permits for industries or taking major action by federal agencies. Importantly, the law also requires the analysis of environmental impacts to be presented to the public for review and comment.

As it always does, industry has targeted the law since its inception in an effort to weaken or eliminate the required analysis and/or public review and comment process. In “industry speak” NEPA’s prudent measures to ensure impacts are not unduly or irreparably deleterious to our shared environment are dubbed “red tape” and “regulatory hurdles.”

Bending, as usual, to unrelenting industry pressure, Congress has already shamefully exempted any number of projects — such as clearcutting national forests — from the required environmental reviews. These measures are intended, as in the case of national forest “categorical exclusions,” to bolster the timber industry which has largely cut itself out of a future by logging far beyond the sustainable levels of forest replacement. In the parlance of the timber industry, our national forests are not ecosystems in and of their own right, supporting a vast array of wildlife and producing clean water for our citizens, but are “100-year gardens” to be whacked down and “harvested.”

The problem is that industry’s rap, as usual, is a total sham and there’s no way timber companies are willing to wait a century for the forests to grow back. Moreover, given the increasing impacts of climate change, forest regrowth is not guaranteed. Nope, it’s “feed the beast” and under Trump, all the timber, oil and gas, mining and development beasts are very hungry indeed.

Thus, without a shred of concern for the future, the administration is not only planning on wholesale exemption of privately funded projects, but will omit any analysis of climate change impacts or cumulative impacts. Hence, if you suck a river dry through a variety of diversions, the impacts won’t be considered cumulatively. And if a pipeline carrying toxic oil sands gunk will contribute vast amounts of greenhouse gases to an already over-heated atmosphere, well, no problem — climate change, after all, is still considered a “Chinese hoax” by Trump and his trash-the-planet cultists.

But the consequences of gutting NEPA are not a hoax — they are very real, very dangerous, and very difficult if not impossible to repair. Given that Montana is home to the nation’s largest Superfund site, one might expect our congressional delegation might be aware of the problems and costs of dealing with long-lasting environmental destruction.

The public has 60 days to comment on the draconian changes. By all rights our congressional delegation should be howling over the administration’s efforts to gut the law. Lawmaking, after all, is a function of Congress, not the executive branch. But so far, the silence from Montana’s congressional delegation is deafening — and not just from Trump’s blind Republican sycophants. Montana’s Democrat Sen. Jon Tester, too, is inexplicably mute on an issue that will negatively affect our state and his constituents while dooming generations yet to come.

More articles by:

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 17, 2020
Sheldon Richman
Anti-BDS Laws Violate Our Freedom
John Horning
NEPA is Our National Defense System

Evelyn Leopold
How the UN’s Middle East Peace Plan Was Trounced by Its Own Members
Stephen Cooper
“Just Mercy” and Justice Don’t Exist in Alabama
Patrick Cockburn
Sinn Fein’s Victory is Ireland’s ‘Brexit Moment’ When Left-Out Voters Turn on the Elite
Ralph Nader
“Democratic Socialism” – Bring it on Corporate Socialists!
Phillip Doe
Every Day’s a Holiday for the Oil Business in Colorado
Binoy Kampmark
Fashion Fetishism, Surgical Masks and Coronavirus
Cesar Chelala
The Democrats’ New Chapter
Robert Koehler
The Wall: Separating Democracy From Voters
Peter Cohen
Time to Retire the “He Can’t Beat Trump” Trope
Sr. Kathleen Erickson
Lessons From Ministering on the Border
Alvaro Huerta
Another Five Lessons for Democrats to Defeat Trump in 2020
Wim Laven
Donald Trump’s Plan for America: Make it Ignorant
Christopher Brauchli
You Tube’s Trump Predicament
Steve Klinger
Trump Shoots Romney at Prayer Breakfast; GOP Shrugs
Elliot Sperber
Ode to the City Bus 
James Haught
Megachurch Mess
Weekend Edition
February 14, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Mayor Mike, Worse Than Mayor Pete
Bruce E. Levine
“Sublime Madness”: Anarchists, Psychiatric Survivors, Emma Goldman & Harriet Tubman
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Leader of the Pack
Jennifer Matsui
The Doomsday Cuckoo Clock
Paul Street
Things Said in Confidence to 4000 Close Friends This Week
Jonathan Cook
Even With Corbyn Gone, Antisemitism Threats Will Keep Destroying the UK Labour Party
Thomas Klikauer
Cambridge Analytica: a Salesgirl’s Report
Joseph Natoli
Vichy Democrats vs. the Master Voice
David Rosen
Sanders vs. the Establishment Democrats: McGovern All Over Again?
Louis Proyect
Marx, Lincoln and Project 1619
Robert Hunziker
Amazon Onslaught
Russell Mokhiber
NPR and the Escalating Attack on Single-Payer Health Care
Ramzy Baroud
Breaking with Washington: Arabs and Muslims Must Take a United Stance for Palestine
Mike Miller
Race and Class: Overcoming the Divides
Michael Brennan
Timeline: How the DNC Manipulated 2016 Presidential Race 
Jacob G. Hornberger
U. S. Lies and Deaths in Afghanistan
Rev. William Alberts
Trump Served Up Projection at the National Prayer Breakfast
Nick Pemberton
The Overwhelming Sex Appeal Of Bernie Sanders
David Swanson
Why This Election Is Different
Dan Bacher
Western States Petroleum Association Tops CA Lobbying Expenses with $8.8 Million Spent in 2019
Christopher Ketcham
The Medium Warps the Message Straight to Our Extinction
Erik Molvar
Trump’s Gutting of NEPA Will Cut the Public Out of Public Lands Decisions
William Kaufman
Tulsi Gabbard: A Political Postmortem
Colin Todhunter
Menace on the Menu in Post-EU Britain
Gregory Elich
Mnangagwa’s Neoliberal Assault on the Zimbabwean People
Ron Jacobs
The Lies of Industry and the Liars Who Sell Them
Binoy Kampmark
Subverting the Blacklist: Kirk Douglas’s Modest Contribution
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail