WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today joined Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), and colleagues in calling on the Trump administration to withdraw its rewrite of a bedrock environmental law. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) ensures that major federal infrastructure projects undergo review for impacts on the environment and climate. In January, the Administration proposed new rules that would limit the range of projects that require such a review and restrict the scope of the assessments. In particular, the proposal blocks agencies from assessing the “cumulative” impacts in NEPA reviews and would remove all references to indirect effects, making it impossible to work to mitigate or respond to the impacts of anything beyond the immediate project itself, or to assess how a proposal’s effects will amplify or interact with those of other projects. In their letter to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Senators argue that the assessment of cumulative impacts provides information that the public needs to truly understand and comment on the effects a project would have in their community on important issues like air quality, water quality, and quality-of-life.
Also signing the letter were Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Bob Casey (D-Penn.)
“As science has progressed to more accurately identify and assess cumulative impacts, we should be engaging with this field of study, rather than walking away from our opportunity to understand the true impacts of projects in which the federal government has a stake,” write the Senators in their letter to CEQ Chairman Mary Neumayr. “If a project’s cumulative impacts on climate, air and water quality, and quality of life are removed from consideration, it would hinder the analysis of complex environmental issues, undermine important protections, and violate the intent of NEPA so severely that it would contravene the language of the statute.”