Communities at risk

Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, Dianne Feinstein, D-California; Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Kamala Harris, D-California, are urging the White House Council on Environmental Quality to reverse course on its proposed rule that would weaken the application of the National Environmental Policy Act, warning that the proposal would greatly inhibit the sharing of concerns by and engagement of American Indian/Alaska Native communities.

“Following centuries of systemic marginalization in this country, NEPA requirements have helped to make progress in ensuring that AI/AN communities are able to provide input on projects that affect their communities,” the senators wrote in a letter sent March 9 to CEQ. “Instead of fostering more participation in the federal decision-making process, CEQ’s proposal would limit tribal input in decisions that directly impact their homelands.”

The senators also criticized CEQ for its lack of discourse with AI/AN communities over these proposed rollbacks.

“Tribal consultation is one of the most basic tenets of the federal-tribal relationship, and it is unclear that any open and public tribal consultation process occurred during the rollout of this proposed rule,” the senators wrote. “This shortened time frame for public comment on this proposed rule does not sufficiently allow for tribes, tribal members and tribal organizations to submit informed and appropriate feedback on the proposed rule.”

The senators’ letter was sent one day before the March 10 deadline for public comment on CEQ’s proposed NEPA rule changes. A week prior, CEQ rejected a request from 167 members of Congress to extend the public comment period.

A full copy of the letter is available at bit.ly/2W6AQEr.