Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

January 29, 2020

Lisa DeVille: Opposing Gutting the National Environmental Policy Act

Lisa DeVille: Opposing Gutting the National Environmental Policy Act

Letter to the Editor
By Lisa DeVille,  Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara
Mandaree, North Dakota
January 28, 2020

Native communities have very few opportunities to voice our concern about major projects such as drilling, highways, pipelines right-of-ways, and industrial waste sites in our backyard.  Yet the Trump Administration is trying to remove the few opportunities we do have by gutting the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). I stand in strong opposition to the proposed changes, which will without a doubt add poison to our air, dirty our water, and impact our health for generations.  Gutting the 40-year-old NEPA regulations will result in less public comment, companies writing their own environmental reviews, bulldozed burial sites. We cannot afford to lose our voice in what happens in Fort Berthold and beyond.

For tribal communities like Fort Berthold, which bear the brunt of health problems such as heart disease and asthma from the poorly planned federal projects, NEPA isn’t just an environmental protection law, it’s a critical tool for ensuring our voice.  We cannot afford to lose it. Any law that provides broad opportunities for public participation in government decisions that affect the environment and local communities shouldn’t be rolled back, rather laws like NEPA should be embraced and strengthened.  NEPA is one of the only avenues for tribal people to have any form of input on federal actions. Tribal communities need to protect NEPA.

NEPA is the main law which gives citizens in Fort Berthold protection from the widespread negative impacts of energy development.  This is because NEPA gives communities like Fort Berthold a voice in the decision-making process surrounding energy development. In addition to giving us a voice, NEPA protects indigenous significant historical and cultural sites, burial sites, endangered species, and water.  I encourage North Dakota’s delegation to reconsider their public support for the wholesale rollback of NEPA and for the public to comment on the NEPA rollback. The deadline to comment is March 10, 2020.

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