NEPA changes looming


This is native America Calling Monica Brain sitting in for tear gatewood. It started in one thousand nine hundred sixty nine with a massive oil spill about three million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean by Santa Barbara California the environmental damage outrage the public and elected officials and it was the impetus for the federal legislation named the National Environmental Policy. Act OR NIBA. The act formalized the practice of environmental impact assessments. That explore how big projects might harm the environment or wildlife as dry as that might sound. Such a review was at the heart of the decision to locate the Dakota access pipeline near standing rock so now the trump administration says Nipah needs to be modernized. They would like to expedite environmental reviews. The proposed changes could also limit the public's ability to weigh in the proposal calls for tribal consultation but many tribal environmental watchers say that the trade offs are severe. That's our show today. Are you interested in streamlining environmental assessments? Will your try benefit from the proposed changes? Maybe they'll get projects done faster. Phone lines are open. Everyone's welcome give us a call. The number is one eight hundred nine nine. Six two eight four eight. That's eight hundred nine. Nine native joining us. Now is Dr Ryan Emmanuel. He's an associate professor and university faculty scholar in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University and Ryan is an enrolled member of the Lombi tribe. Welcome back to native America Calling Ryan. Thanks for having me Monica. Yeah it's great to have you also on the line. We have Lisa developed. She is the vice chair of the Fort Birth hold protectors of water and earthrights and she is an enrolled enrolled in the man. Dan Haddatha recrimination. Welcome Lisa thanks for joining us Ryan let's start with you okay. So what purpose does Nipah serve? So one of the the key purposes of Nita's to ensure that we accurately document The environmental and tax Of a proposed project that is either going to be carried out by the government Carried out on federal lands or carried out with Some kind of federal funding Or or or permitting approval in order to make informed decisions about The types of actions or projects. that that we undertake in the US Nita says that You you must go into that with your eyes. Wide Open regarding environmental impact so at a very basic level it's a it's a documentation of the The environmental trade-offs and effects of undertaking a certain activity or development or project. Okay so let me simplify this a little bit to see if I understand this There's a project and it's either on federal land or it has federal funding and let's say that The environmental reviews is required. It's done and then it says something like this fish farm could end up Killing thirty percent of the sea turtles in the area. The that's all that happens with that. There's public comment but the company ultimately or whoever's doing the project ultimately decides whether or not to move forward is that right well the the agency that's responsible for conducting the review under Nipah is the one We'll make a decision based on whatever those numbers particulars are whether it's endangered species Or hunting or fishing areas or any other kind of resource areas. The Federal Agency has to take responsibility for the impacts. And say say yes you know despite those impacts. We're we're going to permit this activity anyway or no those impacts are too severe and we're GonNa make a judgment call and say we won't issue you this particular permit okay and so Let's talk about some of the proposed changes that are recommended To start off at one of the big things that I read was the creating deadlines for projects and so when president trump announced this he. He made a mention that you know. Sometimes projects take decades to finish and it's really slowing down progress and things like that and so this the the proposed changes would require that projects need to be finished from start to end The the permitting process anyway in two years is that right. That's right and it's important. I think to define what that window of time is that is from. The announcement of the agency is going to undertake An environmental review Through the the research in preparation of the document the public comment process finalization of the report. And then the agency's decision are supposed to take place within that proposed two year window. I mean do you think that's unreasonable? To try and get stuff done in two years. Well if you look at the the underlying data that the proposal sites you know it looks like it would be difficult. So the council environmental quality studied a length of time that it takes reviews to work their way to the systems and it really varies from one agency to another but a lot of these reviews take much longer than two years and so you know there are a couple of explanations for that one could be inefficiencies in the system but the other explanation could be that environmental issues are just so complex and we now have such a richer understanding of these issues and we did Fifty years ago that it warrants More time and more effort To to study documents impacts underneath a are Is THE AGENCY REQUIRED TO CONSULT WITH TRIBES? If it's on their tribal land or near in ancestral land. They so there's a federal executive order that Nipah is is Well the agencies are required to abide by Federal Executive Order Requires them to consult with drives whether it's on tribally controlled territory or or traditional lands Of that particular tribe so that that would still be in effect under the proposed rule changes as far as I understand. There's some language in the proposed rule about actually strengthening Provision for tribal consultation But at the same time there's concern about shortening the time window that you have to engage with tribes. Yeah that's another proposed. Change is well of course if it's two years than that automatically shortens the time window but also you know there's a public comment period Which we're in right now for these proposed changes to NAPA. But you know for these projects and there's a some efforts or the proposed changes are to shorten those public comment periods as well. What do you think about that? Well so I'll give you an example from the tribes that I work with here in North Carolina I I actually work with predominantly non federally recognized rides and there. There are a couple of important things about that but For this conversation you know. It's important to note that these trials are resourced when it comes to Staff who can deal with these kinds of requests for public comments or preparing the kinds of rich responses that are needed to articulate tribal concerns. You may have one person in tribal government. Who's responsible for environment Energy on and maybe a few other roles as well so when they're already Under under pressure to respond to these kinds of deadlines it will probably reduce their ability to participate in decision-making if you shorten the window even further

Coming up next