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Rolling Back Environmental Review Could Hurt ND Tribes

A Trump administration proposal would exempt some large infrastructure projects, such as pipelines, from environmental review. (Jason Woodhead/Flickr)
A Trump administration proposal would exempt some large infrastructure projects, such as pipelines, from environmental review. (Jason Woodhead/Flickr)
January 15, 2020

BISMARCK, S.D. -- A Trump administration proposal to roll back an environmental-review law for large projects could harm North Dakota tribal communities, according to one Native American activist.

The change to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act would reduce the scope of environmental reviews for projects such as highways, pipelines and oil and gas development.

Lisa DeVille, president of the group Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, said the law has been key in protecting tribal communities in the path of North Dakota's booming oil industry.

"Any law that provides opportunities for public participation in government decisions that affect the environment shouldn't be rolled back. It should be embraced and strengthened," she said. "So, NEPA is one of Fort Berthold's only protections from projects that may impact our health."

The administration has said critical infrastructure projects have been bogged down under what it sees as the "burdensome federal approval process" of NEPA. The shift would eliminate the need to consider a project's climate-change impact and allow more industry input in reviews. It also completely exempts some projects with limited federal funding from review.

DeVille said NEPA also has been important for protecting Native American cultural and historic sites.

"All we want are laws to protect our land," she said. "We're not saying, 'Do away with the oil.' Just make sure that you abide by the law and not come in and destroy our burial sites."

The public comment period for the proposal closes on March 10. Comments are being accepted at federalregister.gov.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND