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Denver Hosting Hearing on Trump Environmental Review Law

Public participation in evaluating projects proposed in South Park helped protect waterways thriving with elk, trout and other wildlife. (Pixabay)
Public participation in evaluating projects proposed in South Park helped protect waterways thriving with elk, trout and other wildlife. (Pixabay)
February 11, 2020

DENVER -- The White House Council for Environmental Quality is holding one of just two hearings today in Denver on its plans to modify the National Environmental Policy Act, often called the "Magna Carta" of Federal environmental laws. The proposal calls for narrowing the scope of projects falling under the law's jurisdiction, and limiting public participation.

Lew Carpenter, director of conservation with the National Wildlife Federation, said the act is critical for giving local voices a chance to influence what happens to public lands and waterways.

"Part of our democratic process, part of what we do here in the United States, involves transparent decision making and real evaluation of impacts," Carpenter said. "And I think that this act has provided us that for 50 years."

The act currently requires that federal agencies take a hard and serious look at environmental and public health impacts of major projects, and to consider public input before giving a thumbs up. Carpenter said the new proposal would create loopholes to allow federal agencies to ignore public comments altogether.

Proponents of the Trump plan claim the 50-year-old legislation has bogged down oil and gas development, prevents investment and slows economic growth.

Carpenter said public participation in evaluating projects proposed in South Park helped protect waterways thriving with trout, elk and other wildlife. He said protecting the Platte River headwaters has big downstream benefits through Nebraska, and habitat along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

Carpenter said he doesn't buy the argument that being cautious and careful is bad for business.

"I'm sure there are some places where moving a little quicker might be OK, but it's hard for me to justify that when you have such big environmental and health impacts that could come from it," he said.

The Trump administration's proposal would allow companies to conduct their own environmental reviews. It also eliminates all references to "indirect" effects of development, including downstream water pollution, and "cumulative" impacts such as climate change.

The public can comment on the proposal at the Denver hearing, in Washington, D.C., on February 25, or online at NWF.org/NEPA.

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO