Letter: Protect Democratic participation in government decisions | SteamboatToday.com

Letter: Protect Democratic participation in government decisions

The National Environmental Policy Act — NEPA — is our country’s bedrock environmental law. Enacted in 1970, NEPA provides the framework for citizen participation in government decisions that may impact communities, health and the environment.

Examples of such decisions include proposed industrial facilities near neighborhoods and projects that affect our public lands. In North Carolina, the NEPA process helped save $685 million when it led to the conclusion that improving existing roads rather than constructing a new bypass could meet infrastructure needs while reducing costs and impact to the environment.

The Trump Administration is proposing changes to NEPA that would erode government accountability and diminish our right to participate in decisions that affect us. The proposed rule changes would remove language that heralds NEPA as “our nation’s basic charter for environmental protection” and would instead allow contractors to minimally disclose impacts and even conduct their own environmental assessments.

While this may sound like “streamlining big government,” we need only to look at the hundreds of lives lost when Boeing, in charge of its own safety plan, allowed the 737 Max jet to fly. By encouraging citizen participation and oversight, NEPA ensures, thorough analysis and commonsense protections, that prioritize health and safety.

These proposed rule changes would also have a chilling effect on our ability to assess projects through the lens of climate change by requiring that, “effects should not be considered if they are remote in time (or) geographically remote.” This is dangerously myopic and would prevent citizens from using the best available science to protect our children and future generations.

The NEPA process has successfully helped neighborhoods and communities work with the federal government to develop project alternatives that save money and prevent negative impacts on people, economies and the natural world. Contact the White House Council on Environmental Quality by Tuesday, March 10, and let them know that you value the transparency and democratic participation that NEPA provides.

For more information on NEPA and the proposed rule changes go to: http://ow.ly/hnhu50yCStz.

Diane R. Miller
Steamboat Springs

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