Final NEPA Changes Blatant Giveaway to Corporate Special Interests

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, after President Trump announced final changes gutting the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Accountable.US spokesman Chris Saeger released the following statement:

“Instead of focusing all its attention on addressing the pandemic and keeping Americans safe, this administration is exacerbating the problem by removing environmental protections that protect public health. President Trump is putting our public lands, air, and waters at risk so he can give away yet another favor to his special interest allies.”  

More background on how the administration has put corporate special interests ahead of the American people in reaching this decision:

NEPA is a decades-old law, signed by Richard Nixon, that requires environmental reviews to take place before infrastructure projects can be completed, that the Trump administration has been working to overhaul for years and that industry has been working hand-in-glove with the administration to roll back. For instance: 

  • At least 14 of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s former lobbying clients stand to benefit from NEPA reform. Former Bernhardt clients including Garrison Diversion Water Conservancy District, Samson Resources, Noble Energy, Cadiz Inc., Statoil Wind, and Westlands Water District all have projects currently undergoing NEPA review that would benefit from a more relaxed NEPA;
  • Top Interior officials David Bernhardt and Kate MacGregor have met with ExxonMobil and Chevron, two oil companies that have lobbied for NEPA reform and are also major donors to President Trump. Since meeting with these groups, Bernhardt and MacGregor have had at least 12 meetings focusing on how to gut NEPA;
  • Trump’s General Counsel at the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is married to an industry lobbyist who lobbies the same agency to gut NEPA;
  • A report recently released by the Trump administration’s “Nuclear Fuel Working Group” greenlights uranium mining in the Grand Canyon area by recommending uranium mining gets categorical exclusions from NEPA, thereby avoiding any environmental review;
  • A video acquired by Western Values Project — a project of Accountable.US— exposed Trump’s Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman discussing handing over public assets to special interests and to categorically exclude projects from NEPA review;
  • William Perry Pendley, Trump’s nominee to run the Bureau of Land Management and the current acting director of the Bureau, has called NEPA a “terrible burden.”

The administration giving handouts to polluting industries is part of a larger pattern. In May, The Guardian reported that corporations fined $56 million in civil penalties for allegedly breaking environmental laws are not being required to make payments under a pause granted by the Trump administration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the companies allowed a pause in payments were either political donors or had revolving door ties to the administration. GAO is also expected to release a report this week finding that the Trump administration set a rock-bottom price on the damages done by greenhouse gas emissions, enabling the government to justify the costs of repealing or weakening dozens of climate change regulations. 

Trump’s visit to Atlanta and announcement of the NEPA rollbacks comes a day after New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity released a report that found that regulatory rollbacks across the entire executive branch have put more Americans at risk for the coronavirus.


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