URGENT ACTION NEEDED — Comment on NEPA Revisions

by Duane Nichols on August 11, 2019

Public comment essential to preserve NEPA protections

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) — Proposed Revisions

From the Greenbrier River Watershed Association, Lewisburg, WV

It is urgent that the public weigh in on these significant changes. The proposed NEPA revisions comment period closes August 12. Here are some key takeaways:

The proposed changes would reduce environmental review for logging and infrastructure.

The US Forest Service wants to expand the number of projects that would qualify for “categorical exclusions” – projects that can bypass environmental analysis or environmental impact statements. The exclusions would apply to forest thinning, various types of road and trail building, brush removal and recreational site management. More controversially, forest projects of up to 7,300 acres (with logging on up to more than half of those acres) could be excluded from NEPA review. Mineral and energy exploration – such as using seismic testing to gather geological data and various small-scale infrastructure building – could also be exempt if it lasts less than one year.

The changes would undercut public engagement.

Since its inception, NEPA has established public engagement as a core principle of environmental review. Citizens should know what’s happening on public land – from being notified of potential projects, to having an input on whether or not a project should go through. The changes would undermine the public’s role in NEPA permitting, said Mark Squillace, professor of natural resource law at University of Colorado Law School; people would be less informed about proposed projects and less able to weigh in on them. “The proposal leaves it up to agency officials whether or not to allow public engagement for anything, but an environmental impact statement,” he said.


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ABRA Update August 11, 2019 at 10:23 am

ABRA Update #240 – August 8, 2019

From the Allegheny — Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA)

Forest Service Proposes Limiting Public Comments in NEPA Reviews

A proposal by the U.S. Forest Service (NFS) would severely limit the opportunities for the public to comment on environmental analysis conducted by the agency in accordance with requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). The proposed public comment restriction is part of a proposed rule by the NFS “to increase efficiency in its environmental analysis.” Public comments on the proposed rule are due August 12.

In an op-ed in the August 8 New York Times entitled “Why is the Forest Service Trying to Evade the Public?”, Sam Evans of the Southern Environmental Law Center argued:

The law requires every government agency to look for less harmful ways of meeting its goals. To that end, agency decisions must be based on solid science and made in the sunlight of public accountability. Each federal agency has some leeway to implement the law, but the Forest Service’s newlyproposed rules would instead circumvent it, creating loopholes for logging projects, road construction and even permits for pipelines and other utilities.

By eliminating the opportunity for public comment, the Forest Service is abandoning the chance to get meaningful advice for free. In the short run, the proposal will be bad for forest users, bad for wildlife and bad for local economies that depend on recreation. In the long run, it will hurt timber economies too. The public tolerates commercial logging on public lands only because passionate forest advocates have found ways, working with industry representatives and agency professionals, to minimize harm and even to harness logging for ecological good. If the Forest Service abandons the process that makes this possible, it will undermine the cooperation that allows us to share our public lands.

ABRA Update readers are urged to submit comments about this wrong-headed proposal. Be sure to act by Monday, August 12. 2019. The process is simple and straightforward.


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