By Blue Virginia – February 26, 2020

From the Virginia Sierra Club:

Virginians Rallied in Protest of Trump’s Proposed NEPA Overhaul

Climate advocates from across Virginia called on leaders to halt the rollback of NEPA

Washington D.C. – The Trump administration released a proposal to take a wrecking ball to one of our foundational environmental laws, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The latest proposal represents another handout to polluters. The proposed changes call for expediting major federal actions like new drilling, mining, and unnecessary development of new fossil fuel infrastructure and directs our agencies to ignore the impacts of climate change and our health.

At present, the NEPA requires completion of a rigorous environmental review that incorporates the concerns of local communities and determines whether a proposed infrastructure project may have a significant environmental impact. NEPA promotes environmental justice by requiring federal agencies to study and disclose a proposed project’s potential environmental, economic, social, and health impacts on low-income, minority, and rural communities. It also provides opportunities for meaningful input from those affected communities.The Trump administration is seeking changes to current NEPA policy that would rollback necessary protective measures of the approval process, making it easier for polluters to acquire approval absent of diligent oversight.

On February 25th, the Sierra Club and partners protested proposed rollback at an organized rally and heard individuals representing impacted communities.

Shortcutting environmental reviews doesn’t just cost taxpayer money, it jeopardizes worker safety as well as the health of our local communities. As sea levels continue to rise and extreme weather events become more frequent, NEPA ensures our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure are engineered to be more resilient to the increasingly severe effects of climate change.

Quotations from participants at the NEPA hearing and rally:

-“We felt great urgency about coming to the NEPA hearing in person. NEPA’s mission to perform in-depth environmental impact and justice reviews of the ecosystems and communities where polluting infrastructure is planned has already been greatly diminished. Now, at stake are very public comment periods where independent scientific experts and impacted peoples bring factual evidence of these impacts and injustices to decision-makers — to directly to counter biased industry sponsored data that erases these harms. These protections need to be strengthened not eliminated,” says Lakshmi Fjord, Heidi Dhivya Berthoud, and Swami Dayananda with Friends of Buckingham.

-Lakshmi Fjord, anthropologist: “We beg you, please reinforce what’s already there. Do not take away any of these protections.”

-Joelle Novey, Director of Interfaith Power and Light, regarding the proposed changes: “it’s wrong and it stinks.”

-Vickie Wheaton, nurse, regarding the impact of proposed changes on disadvantaged communities: “when the needs of a few are valued over the needs of the many, it never goes well.”

-Dr. Mildred McClain of Savannah’s Harambe organization. “We will not be silent…NEPA is our tool, it’s the people’s tool…we are going to fight, fight, fight for our environment.”

A public-facing link to photos from the rally and hearing: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1oDFQ7jOHoUJqCvtGorFpC0eCXgTlrEQW?usp=sharing

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About the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter: The Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club is over 20,000 members strong. We are your friends and neighbors working to build healthy, livable communities, and to conserve and protect our climate and environment. The Virginia Chapter is part of the national Sierra Club, the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org/virginia

By Blue Virginia – February 26, 2020

My comments: Photo below – Mustafa Santiago Ali officiated the NEPA rally at noon outside the Department of the Interior, where the NEPA hearings were being held. Mustafa, who worked with the Obama Administration, is responsible for overseeing the entire #EnvironmentalJustice review of the NEPA guidelines. @EJinaction. That’s Russell Chisholm, in the background who also testified at the NEPA hearing.   Note the first photo shows sparse attendance in the Sidney Yates Auditorium, where the testimony was heard. Attendance was intentionally extremely limited.  This is the second day of hearings – only 2 days total for such a significant impactful ‘modernization’. Shame!!!

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