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Environmental and Labor Coalition Seeks to Block Baseless Partisan Attacks on Bedrock Environmental Law

Republican-led lawsuit would dismantle revitalized NEPA rules that highlight environmental justice and climate change

June 27, 2024
Center for Food Safety

SEATTLE, WA — Today, a diverse coalition of environmental justice, labor, and conservation groups moved to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the Biden Administration's finalized phase II regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The lawsuit, filed by twenty-one Republican state attorneys general, aims to block the updated regulations that ensure federal decisions get input from communities, Tribes, and climate change scientists.

In April 2024, the Council on Environmental Quality finalized the phase II regulations that reversed many of the Trump Administration's harmful changes to the bedrock environmental law. The updated regulations require federal agencies to consider climate and environmental justice impacts in their NEPA analyses and mandate meaningful, early consultation with impacted communities, including Tribes.  

"This partisan lawsuit is nothing more than a short-sighted attempt to silence communities that are in harm's way and ignores both scientific and Indigenous knowledge when making federal decisions," said Earthjustice Senior Attorney Jan Hasselman. "It's greed over communities once again." 

"While NEPA has historically been used to address environmental priorities, we also use it to address a project's impact on labor, immigrant, and human rights," said Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) Executive Director Jose Vargas. "The labor movement cares deeply about building clean energy projects quickly and efficiently. The updated NEPA provisions give us a voice in the process, help us advocate for important worker protections and environmental standards, and result in stronger, more resilient projects." 

"NEPA is often one of the few measures environmental justice communities have to bring their concerns directly to decisionmakers," said People's Collective for Environmental Justice Co-Founder and Policy Analyst Andrea Vidaurre. "The Inland Empire has some of the worst air pollution in the country, and the NEPA process gives communities like mine the ability to voice our concerns, demand transparency, and hold decisionmakers accountable. Attacking the new provisions to consider environmental justice impacts would cause irreparable harm to my community and others living with the disparate impacts of polluting industries."  

"Under NEPA, the federal government must look before it leaps and use the best available western and Indigenous science to inform its decisions," said Susan Jane Brown, Chief Legal Counsel with Silvix Resources. "The states' lawsuit challenges this common-sense approach to decisionmaking."

"Despite this partisan lawsuit's claims, recognizing and integrating tribal management practices and knowledge can lead to mutual benefits for both federal and tribal governments," said Environmental Protection Information Center Conservation Attorney Melodie Meyer, "Tribal governments and communities possess unique perspectives and knowledge that are crucial to integrate into the NEPA process. As a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, I know that if federal agencies do not consider Indigenous knowledge, they miss out on opportunities to manage resources more sustainably. Indigenous knowledge and environmental justice are legitimate concerns that must be addressed when making important decisions on consequential projects."    

Read the states' lawsuit.

Read the motion to intervene.

Read the client declarations on the importance of NEPA.

Earthjustice and Silvex Resources represent Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Environmental Protection Information Center, Food & Water Watch, Fort Berthold POWER, Friends of the Earth, Green Latinos, Labor Council on Latin American Advancement, Malama Makua, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Federation, Ocean Conservancy, Peoples Collective for Environmental Justice, Rio Grande International Study Center, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, The Wilderness Society, and Winter Wildlands Alliance as defendant-intervenor-applicants.