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Dear Chair Mallory:
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the CEQ’s October 7, 2021 proposed revisions to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. IATP is a 35-year-old 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
We work at the local, state, national and international levels to create fair and sustainable agriculture and trade systems that benefit family farmers, rural communities and the environment, including addressing climate impacts.1 The comments herein are intended to supplement comments IATP is submitting jointly with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. That submission particularly addresses the need for the CEQ to reverse a series of provisions in the 2020 NEPA rules that excluded review of federal financing of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and which in multiple ways narrowed the scope of review and alternatives analysis with respect to federal actions related to these operations. IATP’s policy analysis and advocacy extend to a wide range of federal actions related to rural communities and farms that have been or will be affected by the 2020 NEPA rule revisions. Our work includes how climate change threatens the viability of agriculture and how agriculture itself significantly contributes to climate altering greenhouse gas emissions.2
CEQ’s proposed rule3 will better align agency guidance with the statutory intent of NEPA, and with more than 40 years of judicial interpretation and practical implementation that has cemented the law as the cornerstone of our national environmental policy. IATP generally supports the proposed revisions, as far as they go. We wish to highlight the importance of moving quickly, however, to restore the full scope of longstanding NEPA policy that was in effect until 2020. We understand that this rulemaking is Phase 1 of CEQ’s proposed restoration; we encourage CEQ to move forward as soon as practicable with the remaining portions of its rulemaking in order to restore NEPA’s effectiveness as a tool for careful and inclusive environmental decision-making.
IATP strongly supports the proposed changes to restore and codify longstanding NEPA policy including:
- that the full range of reasonable alternatives are considered when a project is reviewed;
- that the purpose and need for the project not be limited to the applicant’s goals;
- that all reasonably foreseeable adverse impacts are disclosed and considered, including so called
- indirect impacts;
- that cumulative impacts, which may individually be minor but collectively significant, must be
- considered; and
- that individual agencies should be allowed, as they had been for 40 years, to address criteria and establish procedures consistent with NEPA that augment those listed in the CEQ’s rules, to reflect specialized agency expertise and authority; in other words, the CEQ’s guidance should be considered a floor, not a ceiling.
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