The White House: President Donald Trump in Georgia for Infrastructure Announcement - July 15, 2020

Native Sun News Today: Foes to sue feds for undermining environmental protections

ATLANTA, GA. – Grassroots organizations vowed to take the federal government to court over U.S. President Donald Trump’s July 15 announcement here of rules changes shattering the bedrock environmental law that tribes and constituents have used to fend off fracking, oil pipelines and mining in treaty territory.

Hailing the finalization of comprehensive changes to rules under the National Environmental Protection Act, NEPA, Trump said, “Today's action is part of my Administration's fierce commitment to slashing the web of needless bureaucracy that is holding back our citizens. I've been wanting to do this from day one.”

Damning the reforms’ implications for native nations, Lisa DeVille, vice-chair of Indian reservation-based grassroots Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights (POWER), from Mandaree, North Dakota, replied:

“Black, indigenous, and people of color’s communities bear the disproportionate burden of toxic pollution in their neighborhoods, and as a result, are dying from Covid-19 at higher rates,” she said. An enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa & Arikara (MHA) Nation, aka the Three Affiliated Tribes, she represented native sentiment in a joint statement issued by foes of the rules changes from across the United States

“My family and I live on my ancestral land in the center of the Bakken oil field, and the last thing my family needs right now is even less protection from the dangerous impacts of this development,” she said.

“NEPA is one of the few laws that require environmental analysis on the reservation and consideration of the disproportionate impacts of development on indigenous people,” she noted.

“We all deserve to breathe clean air, but the Trump Administration is proposing to eliminate protections against environmental racism that occurs from oil and gas development near my home.”

Lisa DeVille, vice-chair of Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights (POWER), addresses the Native Nations Rise Rally in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

 At a time when people across the country “are focused on a global health crisis, the injustices of Covid-19, and systemic racism that disproportionately harms Black and brown communities, this action is putting Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), and multiracial communities at greater risk,” Greenlatinos national network declared.

Concurring with Fort Berthold POWER and Greenlatinos were grassroots constituents of the umbrella network Western Organization of Resource Councils. Barbara Vasquez, Oil and Gas Team chair complained, “The Administration’s priorities are crystal clear--rubber stamp polluting projects and pump toxins into the air and water while a crisis rages unchecked. We need the protection of thorough environmental and public health review now more than ever,” she said.

“We will sue,” said Brian Sweeney, communications director for the Western Environmental Law Center.

“We have consistently defeated this Administration’s relentless, vicious dismantling of safeguards for people and the environment, and we will do so again with this final rule,” said the center’s Susan Jane Brown. “A thriving economy is not at odds with worker protections and a healthy environment – it depends on both.”

The White House cast the reform as “modernization”, saying, “For the first time in 40 years, President Donald J. Trump is taking action to right-size the federal government’s environmental review process.”

The industry-backed move constitutes a remake of the regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act, sometimes called the “magna carta” of environmental protections. Congress passed the act nearly unanimously, and former U.S. President Richard Nixon signed it into law on Jan. 1, 1970



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