Y E A R S
P R O J E C T S E V A L U A T E D
V O I C E S H E A R D
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is often characterized as an environmental impact review law, and it is that – but it is much more than that. It is a law that has made informed decision-making about the environment a key component of every major federal action.
Passed into law with an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress and signed by President Nixon on January 1, 1970, NEPA was the first major federal environmental law ever enacted and has since served as the foundation of reasonable, balanced and transparent protections for our environment. With the passage of NEPA, Congress recognized that the government’s actions have a profound potential to cause large-scale environmental effects.
At its most basic level, NEPA requires government agencies to engage in a review process intended to discover any significant environmental and public health impacts before a decision is made. It ensures that those who manage federal projects make the best decisions based on the best information while involving and informing the public. For example, if the government wanted to build a toxic waste incinerator in a residential neighborhood, the NEPA environmental review process would likely discover significant long-term health risks to the local community.
NEPA is a critical law that empowers local communities to protect themselves and their environment from dangerous, rushed or poorly planned federal projects and often provides the only forum for citizens to engage with major federal actions that affect their health, well-being, and environment. Thanks to NEPA, millions of people have been given a voice in federal government decisions impacting their lives.
NEPA ensures that the federal government makes the best decision based on the best information while engaging and informing the public it serves. We teach our children to “look before they leap.” NEPA simply and sensibly requires the government to do the same.
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 protects the health and safety of every family and community that stands to be threatened by developers and corporate polluters.
Your right to be heard is non-negotiable. By mandating public input on the impacts of major federal projects like power plants, pipelines and infrastructure, NEPA provides a forum for communities to make their voices heard in important decisions that affect their health, homes and environment.
Government works best when decisions are made out in the open. Without NEPA, decisions about major federal projects would once again be made behind closed doors with little or no accountability. Opponents in Congress would resurrect a “those in power know best” culture of complacency and secrecy.
Our country is blessed with a wealth of natural resources as well as diverse wildlife and wildlands spread across our National Parks, National Monuments and National Forests. NEPA helps preserve and protect these public lands for the enjoyment of future generations.
Often overlooked amid the relentless attacks on clean air, clean water, and clean energy by the current Administration and Congress is the unprecedented and systematic campaign of administrative and legislative attacks aimed at weakening or waiving the application of NEPA.
Scores of opponents in Congress, often backed by industry donations, have launched assault after assault on NEPA, eager to resurrect a “those in power know best” culture of complacency and secrecy. This “death by a thousand cuts” strategy is in full force. More than 150 pieces of legislation sought to undermine, weaken or waive NEPA in over the past four years in Congress. Many of these legislative and administrative proposals aimed at weakening the substance of environmental reviews under NEPA are labeled under the deceptive heading of “streamlining.”
Current legislative proposals in Congress, made bolder by the election of Donald Trump, are even more alarming. If passed, they would exempt large categories of government activity from the NEPA review process, allow federal agencies to ignore project design alternatives better protecting public health, and limit opportunities for the public to comment on and challenge agency decisions.
The bottom line is that if we don’t act now, Congress could, little by little, take away our right to have a say about federal government actions in our own backyards. Our message to Congress is simple: Never Eliminate Public Advice.
The Protect NEPA campaign works with a coalition of over twenty of the country’s largest environmental and civil rights advocacy groups – including Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, LCLAA, Natural Resources Defense Council and League of Conservation Voters – to advance and defend NEPA across a broad range of key issue areas.
Addressing climate change is our generation’s greatest challenge. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a critical tool in this fight to transition our economy away from dirty fossil fuels towards clean, renewable energy sources. NEPA requires federal agencies to quantify the project’s projected carbon footprint, even if those emissions would be released far from the boundaries of the project in question.
As sea levels continue to rise and extreme weather events become more frequent, roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects must be engineered to be more resilient to the increasingly severe effects of climate change. NEPA ensures that our energy and transportation infrastructure is built to last with the benefit of local communities in mind.