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CalWild Joins Lawsuit Against NEPA Rollbacks

July 29, 2020

Contacts: Chris Morrill, Executive Director, California Wilderness Coalition ·
Ryan Henson, Policy Director, California Wilderness Coalition ·

California Wilderness Coalition joins lawsuit against the Trump administration

Oakland, CA — Today, Earthjustice and Western Environmental Law Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of approximately 20 plaintiffs, including the California Wilderness Coalition (CalWild), which seeks to overturn a recent Trump administration environmental rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). On July 16, 2020, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released the final text of a sweeping new rule which will eviscerate core components of NEPA, a crucial safeguard for communities’ clean air, clean water, and health, and wild lands and imperiled species. This proposal guts more than 40 years of settled environmental law.

Passed almost unanimously by Congress and signed into law by President Nixon in 1970, NEPA was the product of years of determined activism from people who wanted a greater say in decisions affecting their health, environment, and public lands. NEPA instituted a national policy of “look before you leap” by requiring all federal agencies to analyze carefully and disclose to the public the potential environmental impacts of, and feasible alternatives to, federal agency actions.

Since 1978, regulations promulgated by the CEQ have guided every federal agency’s implementation of NEPA. Over the decades, the 1978 CEQ regulations have stood the test of the time, with only minor amendments. The Trump administration now proposes to gut those regulations.

“NEPA embodies our nation’s environmental conscience,” said Chris Morrill, CalWild Executive Director. He added, “The Trump administration has completely upended Congress’ original intent in enacting NEPA with the issuance of this new rule. This new rule is an enormous gift to extractive and polluting corporations, over the vociferous objections of states, Tribes, conservationists, and the public.”

The new rule will place new limits on the scope of actions to which NEPA applies, eviscerate the careful environmental analysis that lies at the heart of the statute, create new barriers to the public’s ability to participate in federal agency decision-making, and limit judicial review of agency NEPA compliance.

Ryan Henson, CalWild’s Policy Director said, “NEPA isn’t a burden on the public. The existing CEQ rule isn’t broken. What’s needed is adequate funding for agency planning, not a gutting of protections. We’re pleased to join in this effort to defend one of our nation’s premier conservation statutes.”

The lawsuit seeks a court ruling that: 1) holds the new CEQ rule to be unlawful; 2) re-instates the rule that was in place prior to the enactment of the new rule; and 3) enjoins the CEQ from implementing, enforcing, or relying upon the new rule.

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