The latest in the long series of attempts to subvert the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has taken the form of a new regulation promulgated by the Department of the Interior (DOI).

This new rule, if implemented, would dramatically limit how DOI agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, follow the environmental safeguard provisions of NEPA.

Since the beginning of the Bush administration, NEPA– arguably the country’s keystone environmental law– has been under relentless attack.

Legislative packages such as the so-called Healthy Forests Initiative and a vastly expanded use of “categorical exemptions” have had as their primary goal avoidance of the environmental assessment and public input requirements of NEPA.

NEPA requires federal agencies and federally funded developers to consider the environmental impacts of their proposed actions, to look at alternatives, and to solicit public comment. Based on this NEPA evaluation, a project– such as bulldozing a rare blue-oak woodland on federal ranchland– may be modified to protect environmental values, or stopped altogether.

On Jan. 2 the Bush administration published in the Federal Register a new set of regulations that would place significant restrictions on citizens’ ability to participate in the public comment process and to challenge a DOI agency's decisions.

The new rules would toss out the accumulated wisdom of past experience by limiting the review of past actions when considering a new project. And they would allow agencies to count vague non-monetary items as “costs” when deciding whether or not the agency in question can “afford” to compile the necessary information for an environmental review.


Email the Department of the Interior at the address below (make sure to put the Rule Identification Number [RIN] in your email’s subject line). Tell the DOI to rescind its proposed rule, “National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Procedures,” and not to weaken this fundamental environmental law.

Use the sample letter below as a guide– but feel free to rewrite it in your own words.

Comments are due by March 3, 2008.


To: doi_nepa@contentanalysisgroup.com
Re: RIN 1090-AA95 NEPA Proposed Rule

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing in response to the proposed rule, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Procedures, published in the Federal Register on January 2, 2008.

I am very concerned that the proposed rule would weaken NEPA in fundamental ways.

NEPA is the best tool Americans have to learn how federal projects may affect the environment. It also is the best tool the federal government has to examine the proposed projects and obtain public input. By making sure that the public is informed and that alternatives are considered, NEPA has stopped some unwise and harmful projects and made countless projects better.

I am concerned that if the Department of Interior implements these procedural changes, the ability of private citizens to comment on policy decisions and activities will be effectively limited. The DOI should not reduce public input into environmental assessments.

I am also concerned that DOI is proposing to limit consideration of past actions and their effects on the environment when proposing future actions. It is important to learn from previous experience and weigh cumulative effects, instead of making each decision without context or history.

DOI agencies should not be allowed to include vague non-monetary “costs” when deciding whether or not the agency in question can “afford” the necessary information for an environmental review. This provision would allow subjective, speculative assessments of non-monetary “costs” to be used to portray environmental assessments as unaffordable.

I strongly urge the DOI to withdraw its proposed regulation.

Your Name
Your Address


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places