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Protect the National Environmental Policy Act to protect rivers!

Table of Contents

How to Fight the Attack on the National Environmental Policy Act


In early January, the Trump administration proposed sweeping rollbacks to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing regulations. The changes would have major negative impacts for Water Protection Network priorities, eliminating critical protections for the environment and people alike.

We strongly encourage all Water Protection Network members to find ways to engage in the critical fight to protect NEPA against the rollbacks. We'll be sharing a group sign-on letter for WPN members and partners to join in the coming weeks. We've also put together this toolkit as a resource for taking action in a number of other ways.
 

The proposed changes:

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the bedrock environmental law that requires the federal government to review the environmental impacts of its decisions and to give the public a voice in federal decisions. The proposed changes to NEPA regulations would undermine public input in federal decision-making and make it easier to hide the true environmental and public health impacts of major projects. They would also create confusion and gridlock by upending decades of well-settled NEPA requirements and approaches. Among other things, the proposed changes would:
  • eliminate the environmental review process for more types of projects;
  • limit the types of impacts considered during environmental reviews;
  • limit reviews of less harmful alternative actions;
  • make it harder for the public and outside experts to provide input;
  • allow companies to conduct their own environmental reviews despite their likely bias;
  • place arbitrary time and length limits on environmental reviews; and
  • make it harder to file a legal challenges to bad environmental reviews. 
These rollbacks would have major negative impacts for Water Protection Network priorities. NEPA regulations apply to all federal agencies and guide environmental reviews for more than 100,000 federal actions each year, including major projects that impact rivers, lakes, coasts, wetlands, and other aquatic resources, The NEPA environmental review process is often the only avenue for WPN member organizations and the public to engage in decisions on major projects such as:
  • levees, dams, and flood risk management projects;
  • oil and gas pipelines and other energy development projects;
  • major roads and other transportation projects;
  • dredging to deepen and widen waterways;
  • mining of toxic chemicals; and
  • restoration projects.

Opportunities to take action against the NEPA rollbacks include:

  • Joining the group sign-on letter that we will share in the next couple weeks.
  • Helping to spread the word and encouraging your supporters to submit comments against the rollbacks. This National Environmental Policy Act Messaging Toolkit provides resources for WPN members, including social media guidance; sample letters to the editor; images; and links to action alerts, blogs, and more from WPN members fighting the rollbacks.
  • For those with Colorado or southern Wyoming connections, consider encouraging your supporters there to attend the Denver Rally to Protect Your Voice! on February 11th.
  • Testifying at the Washington, DC public hearing on February 25th. Email rubini@nwf.org if you’d like to participate.
  • Sending an action alert to your supporters to submit comments against the rollbacks. Examples of WPN member action alerts are linked in the toolkit HERE.
  • Submitting comments directly by March 10, 2020 under docket number CEQ-2019-0003: Online through regulations.gov, by fax to 202-456-6546, or by mail to Council on Environmental Quality, 730 Jackson Place NW, Washington, DC 20503.

Learn more:

  • We put together this document for WPN members and partners with more information on the proposed regulations, as well as the fundamentals of NEPA itself.
  • Explore the NEPA Messaging Toolkit for the WPN for even more information and resources for taking action.
  • Please contact Ilana at rubini@nwf.org to add your organization's actions opposing the rollbacks to the toolkit for WPN members, if you would like to get more involved, or if you have any questions.

Replacement Waters of the US Rule Removes Protections for Half of the Nation's Wetlands, Many Streams, & More

 
On January 22, the Trump administration unveiled its final Waters of the United States rule - actively opposed by many Water Protection Network members - eliminating Clean Water Act protections for more than half the nation’s wetlands and millions of miles of streams. This rule opens up waters that serve as drinking water sources, critical fish spawning grounds, wildlife habitat, and flood protection to increased risk of pollution and destruction. This goes far beyond simply reversing the 2015 Clean Water Rule, and instead removes protections required by the Clean Water Act since it passed in 1972 – including protections that were in place during both the Bush and Reagan administrations. Among other exclusions, the final rule would end decades of protections for rain-dependent streams, most wetlands, certain ponds and lakes, and interstate waters. This replacement "Waters of the United States" rule follows the October 2019 repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule. The final replacement rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register.
 

Resources & more information:

Water Resources Development Act Update


Congress continues working on the next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), the bill that authorizes projects and policy changes for the Corps of Engineers. Most members of the House of Representatives will be forming their WRDA proposals between now and the end of February in response to a letter from leaders of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. That committee will hold a hearing, “Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2020: Members’ Day Hearing," on February 27 at 10:00 AM ET. More information about the hearing should be posted on this page as the date approaches. Meanwhile, the Senate is actively drafting and negotiating a WRDA bill.

Click here for a video of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee's January 9th WRDA hearing, with testimony from the Corps of Engineers.
Click here to read about the Water Protection Network priorities for WRDA 2020 and stay tuned for further developments.

Selected News & Resources


Pebble Mine: A two-part investigation from National Geographic: The risky plan to haul minerals from a mine in the Alaska wilderness and Alaska is the best place to see wild bears. A new mine could change that. Also, this from E&E News: Regulations: Feds ease NEPA process for major mining projects.

Congressional Budget Office report: Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation and Water Infrastructure

U.S. Governmental Accountability Office report: Alternative Drinking Water Systems: Use by Very Small Communities, Related Cost Savings, and Technical Assistance Provided by EPA and USDA

From WPN member American Rivers: River Protection at the National Level: A Look Back at 2019 and What's Ahead in 2020

If you would like to share news, resources, or something else in future WPN Updates, please email rubini@nwf.org.

Recent Public Notices


The listings below are Corps of Engineers public notices from the Federal Register and Corps district websites, and select notices from other federal agencies. Please see past WPN Updates for notices published earlier and visit FederalRegister.gov, Corps division and district websites, and other federal agencies' websites for complete listings of public notices. Click here for examples of comments and letters submitted to the Corps by WPN members.
 

Corps of Engineers Notices

Other Agency Notices

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