The Trump Administration has released the final version of its new regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The Society for Historical Archaeology, as part of the Coalition for American Heritage, identified these concerns:
- Fewer actions will be subject to NEPA review;
- The public will have fewer opportunities to raise concerns about effects;
- The types of effects to be considered by the agencies are limited;
- Arbitrary timelines and page limits may reduce consideration of cultural resource impacts; and
- The regulations introduce confusing new terms that will invite litigation and delay projects.
Given the decades of precedent and case history surrounding NEPA, America’s bedrock environmental law, we believe that any changes should be made with care, consideration, and robust stakeholder involvement. Instead, the Trump Administration rushed through the comment period during a global pandemic and failed to include meaningful government-to-government consultation with Tribes.
At each step in the process, the Coalition raised concerns about the rule’s anticipated effects on consideration of cultural resources. The SHA and other Coalition members from across the country submitted letters to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), using our expertise to outline how the proposed rule could harm historic preservation efforts. To read a copy of the SHA’s letter, click here. The Coalition also submitted a comment letter to CEQ in which we highlighted the potential dangers to cultural resources. To read a full copy, click here. In addition, the Coalition met with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House to provide additional details of our concerns. We are therefore disappointed that the Administration failed to meaningfully address these concerns.
It is likely that this rule will be challenged in court, and Congress and/or a future Administration could take steps to reverse these changes. The Coalition will continue monitoring the impacts of the new rule as it goes into effect. Please contact Terry Klein (firstname.lastname@example.org), chair of the SHA Government Affairs Committee, and Marion Werkheiser (email@example.com) of the Coalition, with examples of the impacts you see these new regulations having on your projects.