Today, the Trump administration released drastic rollbacks to America’s bedrock environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Interior Secretary Bernhardt has long-pushed for gutting NEPA, and it seems President Trump and the White House have fulfilled the former mega-lobbyists wishes.
In response, Deputy Director of Western Values Project Jayson O’Neill issued the following statement:
“This is beyond death by a thousand cuts: it is a bloodbath for our wildlife, water, air, and public lands. Time and again the Trump administration has made it clear that the future of America’s outdoor heritage is a mere toy. Gutting America’s bedrock environmental law for corporate special interests is another box checked on their anti-public lands, anti-wildlife, and anti-environment to-do list.”
“Meanwhile, Secretary Bernhardt has turned Interior into his own personal lobbying shop, and it appears that the ultimate DC swamp creature was at the trough early and often enough to secure everything his former industry clients wanted from President Trump.”
Just today, one of Sec. Bernhardt’s former industry clients joined in releasing a campaign aimed at backing President Trump and Sec. Bernhardt’s gutting of NEPA regulations. And earlier this week, Western Values Project (WVP) released a new analysis that found at least 12 NEPA-related meetings were held by Sec. Bernhardt and his acting duty secretary.
This is hardly the first time Sec. Bernhardt’s calendars have revealed dubious efforts to appease his former lobbying clients. When Interior was asked to release Sec. Bernhardt’s calendars, the Department released five different, inconsistent versions – each with conflicting information. Further, his office was accused of destroying his official calendars to shield the special interest meetings taken by Sec. Bernhardt and his politically-appointed team.
Sec. Bernhardt previously attempted to gut NEPA by issuing a memorandum limiting NEPA practices, calling for an effort to “streamline” reviews. In reality, the memo put in place narrow time and page limits, endangering potentially tedious and critical environmental analysis. The memo was, indeed, intended to fast-track oil and gas development on public lands and mirrors the rollbacks released by President Trump today.
The Trump administration’s NEPA revisions include allowing industry projects to sidestep environmental concerns while placing stricter deadlines on federal agencies conducting environmental reviews. Reporting from Politico says the “proposal delivers a major wishlist item for industry and conservatives who complain the permitting process takes too long, adding years of delay and unforeseen costs.”
Perhaps most alarming, the Trump administration revisions strikes language that calls for industry proposals to consider the “cumulative” effects — a word often used to incorporate climate change factors and the totality of development impacts into reviews.