Many of us can remember a time when when federally-funded projects on public lands were undertaken without much thought about how those projects would affect the environment or local residents. In 1960, people protested the bulldozing of many communities and destruction of entire ecosystems that occurred when the Interstate Highway System was built. In 1962, Rachel Carlson published her groundbreaking book, Silent Spring, warning us of the devastating effects of the indiscriminate use of pesticides on humans and wildlife. And in 1968, the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara experienced the third worst oil spill in history, due to insufficient regulation of the oil and gas industry.
A groundswell of public opinion supporting environmental regulation arose from these environmental disasters. On January 1, 1970, The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law by Richard Nixon. NEPA was passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate, and by a vote of 372-15 in the U.S. House of Representatives. Protecting our environment was something that both Republicans and Democrats agreed about.
Often characterized as America's environmental magna carta, the NEPA process has two goals: 1) to inform decision makers about the impacts of all reasonable alternatives to their project, and 2) to involve all interested parties in the analysis of that decision. Proposed federal actions that will significantly affect the environment—like the border wall—normally require preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) that provides multiple opportunities for citizen involvement. Citizens may even develop their own alternatives that agencies must then analyze and consider. State, tribal and local governments also have a say before decisions are made. At its heart, the NEPA process ensures that federal decision makers "look before they leap" and that the looking includes everyone who cares about the impacts of the proposed action.
So what are the consequences to all of us if NEPA is waived to expedite the building of a border wall? No analysis of the environmental, social, and economic effects of proposed projects will be done and shared with the public before a decision is made and construction begins.This means that 1) a wildlife corridor can be blocked arbitrarily, without regard to its importance to the survival of the species which use it; 2) fragile desert plants can be removed and entire areas bulldozed on the whim of DHS personnel; 3) waste materials can be disposed of without any concern for the safety of ourselves, our water, or our air; 4) any number of roads can be built during construction that could destroy desert plants and fragment wildlife habitats; 5) the location of antiquities or places sacred to native Americans can be destroyed during construction or actually covered by the wall; and 6) you and I have lost our opportunity to review and comment on major projects that will affect us before decisions are made.
NEPA is one of 48 laws that have been waived to expedite construction of a border wall (click here for a list of all 48 federal laws that have been waived). Please alert your community that your right to a safe environment and to speak out about projects that will affect you or your community have been curtailed. And let your Senators and Representative (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members) know that you don’t support waiving laws enacted to protect us and our environment in order to fast track a border wall. Click here if you would like to make a donation to help us fight the border wall.