GreenLatinos and The City Project submitted public comments before the House National Resources Committee.
We reject the premise of the April 25 hearing and the misuse of the term “lawfare” as applied to NEPA. “Broadly defined, ‘lawfare’ is the manipulation of the legal system against an enemy with the intent to damage or delegitimize them, waste their time and resources, or to score a public relations victory.” Hearing Memo p.2. We the people are not the enemy. The use of ‘lawfare’ misstates the facts and the experience of NEPA as applied for over 40 years.
NEPA provides a proven bulwark against hasty or wasteful federal decisions by fostering government transparency and accountability. NEPA ensures federal decisions are democratic at their core by guaranteeing meaningful public involvement. NEPA has achieved its stated goal of improving the quality of the human environment by relying on sound science to reduce and mitigate harmful environmental impacts.
NEPA plays a vital role in distributing fairly the benefits and burdens of environmental policies and programs for all. What the environmental justice movement has demonstrated is that racially identifiable communities are at a greater risk of environmental harms, disproportionately lack environmental benefits including parks and green space, pay a larger cost, and carry a heavier environmental burden than other communities, regardless of income and class.
Latinos are among the strongest supporters of environmental protection for several major reasons, namely, local exposure to pollutants, the effects of climate change and pollution on migrant farmworkers, and the impact of global warming on Latin American nations. Nevertheless, Latinos, and other people of color, are often marginalized by public officials, government agencies, mainstream environmentalists, and the media. Proper enforcement of NEPA with civil rights and environmental justice laws and policies can help address these environmental injustices.
Well-documented and disproportionate threats to healthy communities include environmental exposures to lead, particulate matter, proximity to toxic sites, water contamination, air pollution, and more. All of these are known to increase the incidence of respiratory diseases, various types of cancer, and negative birth outcomes and to decrease life expectancy, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee Report, Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity (2017).