Five members of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus on March 9 urged the White House Council on Environmental Quality to reverse course on its proposed rule that would weaken the application of the National Environmental Policy Act, detailing ways in which the proposal would exacerbate harmful environmental impacts on Environmental Justice communities, which are already disproportionately affected by the effects of systemic and longstanding exposure to air, water and land pollution.

In their letter to CEQ, Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, and Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, co-founders of the caucus, and Bob Casey. D-Pennsylvania, and Kamala Harris, D-California, warn that, under the CEQ’s proposed rollback, EJ communities will lose core protections afforded to them through the NEPA process. The senators also highlighted proposed changes to NEPA implementation that would disproportionately harm EJ communities, including changes to the preparation of environmental analyses.

“EJ communities already have to fight to be heard on project decisions that affect their day-to-day lives,” wrote the senators. “CEQ’s proposed changes that would allow companies to conduct their own environmental impact statements and that eliminate the conflict of interest provision of the current regulation are both an affront to EJ communities whose only recourse is often the public input afforded to them during NEPA’s current approval process.”

“Company’s interests lie largely with their profit margins and a good deal less with the communities directly affected by their actions,” they continued. “Allowing companies to write their own environmental impact statements is akin to offering a self-graded take-home exam. We simply cannot trust every company or businesses to do the right thing when, too often, history has shown us otherwise.”

The senators also urged CEQ to extend the public comment period for its process for its sweeping changes to NEPA’s implementation. On March 4, CEQ rejected the five members’ request with 162 other members of Congress to extend the public comment period.

A full copy of the letter is available at bit.ly/3aAzc1Y.