The National Environmental Policy Act is a 50-year-old rule that gives communities a say in projects from highways to pipelines that could harm our environment and our kids. The rule requires agencies to engage in a review process to identify environmental, economic, social, or health impacts certain kinds of large projects may have, before decisions are made and construction begins. The Trump administration is actively working to limit our voices and prevent consideration of climate impacts by proposing to weaken this rule.
Moms are raising our voices against this proposal. Last month, moms spoke out at the public hearing in Colorado on this issue. Then last week, we had another chance to express our opposition to the proposal at a second public hearing in Washington, DC, where moms from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and DC all testified.
The proposed rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is an attempt to deny climate science, weaken the environmental review process, and restrict public participation in federal projects.
Ellie Bell, a Science Education graduate student from West Virginia, spoke about a specific project in her community, and how the NEPA process has helped her community raise important concerns.
“I live in Snowshoe, West Virginia, where I have seen first-hand how important the NEPA process is to give my community the right to know and the ability to comment on how local projects directly, indirectly, and cumulatively impact our health, safety, economy, and environment. Through the NEPA process, we had the opportunity to voice concerns and educate the federal government about how a proposed Underground Mine Safety Research Facility for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, would impact our community.
“It is critical to consider indirect and future impacts that projects will have to our community. Caves, fissures, and underground rivers underlie our region in West Virginia. The proposed project includes an underground mine for explosion experiments that would be excavated into the limestone where our water travels. Fire suppression chemicals and diesel fuel will be used in the underground mine galleries. Dewatering or pollution of drinking water wells could happen miles away from the project due to the connection of the underground rivers. This dewatering and pollution could happen immediately or it could happen years after the facility is built due to the vibrations from constant explosions finally shifting rock features nearby. This major issue would no longer be considered under the proposed rollbacks of NEPA.”
Natalie Pien is a mother of two and retired public school teacher from Leesburg, Virginia. She is also trained as an environmental scientist, and she spoke about the importance of retaining climate change considerations in NEPA – something the Trump administration proposal is trying to eliminate.
“As an Environmental Scientist, I see that Nature’s balance is in jeopardy and climate change has a significant role… Last May, the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reported that one million species may be pushed to extinction in the next few years, with serious consequences for human beings as well as the rest of life on Earth… Now is not the time to remove the indirect and cumulative considerations of climate change pollution and environmental impacts from proposed projects. NEPA has helped to protect children and ecosystems for the last fifty years. We cannot abandon this important rule now, when it is needed the most. On the contrary, NEPA must be strengthened. You must preserve our planet and all its ecosystems, known as our life-supporting safety net, for people today and for our children’s future.”
Stephanie Klein, Moms Clean Air Force’s DC organizer and mother of two, highlighted how weakening NEPA would have a disproportionate impact on poor communities and communities of color.
“NEPA provides local communities the ability to weigh in on federal projects impacting their health and safety and gives the affected community the opportunity to offer alternatives. And for low-income and communities of color, which are often disproportionately impacted by health problems associated with poorly planned projects, NEPA is a critical tool for civic engagement.
“Everyone has the right to live, work, learn and play in healthy communities where the air is safe to breathe and the water is safe to drink. NEPA rules have helped keep our children safe for the last fifty years and was created originally with bipartisan support. We cannot abandon them now, when our kids need them the most.”
Elizabeth Brandt, Regional Manager for Moms Clean Air Force and a Maryland mom, spoke about how, with just two public hearings and no tribal consultation, the Trump administration has not offered a reasonable opportunity for impacted people to provide input.
“I’m originally from the top corner of Washington State, a beautiful area with strong indigenous communities. In our area, the Lummi Tribe used the NEPA process to protect their land and fishing rights when proposed development of a coal export terminal threatened them. The closest public hearing on the changes to NEPA was held 1400 miles from the Lummi Reservation.”