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Reform of the National Environmental Policy Act

Since the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act in the early 70’s, countless court decisions have interpreted and re-interpreted the act and its implementing regulations. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has had more impact on what this law requires of federal agencies than any other court in the country. Today, many believe it is impossible for a federal agency to write an environmental document that will satisfy the court unless, of course, the court is predisposed to approve of the decision the document was written to support. This has caused absolute gridlock in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. This resolution is intended to call upon Congress and the Council on Environmental Quality to enact meaningful NEPA reform to make the law a workable part of the federal decision-making process.

WHEREAS, over the past three decades the intent of this law and the extent of its required disclosure of environmental consequences have been interpreted and re-interpreted by numerous federal courts, not the least of which has been the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and

WHEREAS, today’s environmental documentation for a national forest plan, or even an individual timber sale, can take several years, thousands of man-hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare, and

WHEREAS, when these documents are challenged in federal court, it has become the rule, not the exception, for judges to find them deficient in one way or another, not based on the original intent of this law, but on interpretations and case law created over the past three decades by numerous federal courts, and

WHEREAS, after completing seven months of public hearings around the United States, the U. S. House of Representatives’ Task Force on Updating the National Environmental Policy Act has issued its draft findings and recommendations on improving the Act.

THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the Oregon Logging Conference go on record in support of the 22 recommendations outlining the findings of the House Task Force on NEPA Reform regarding the major issues and problems with the existing NEPA Policy.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Oregon Logging Conference acknowledges and approves of the nine categories of changes outlined in the Task Group’s Report including:

  • Addressing delays in the process
  • Enhancing public participation
  • Better involvement for state, local and Tribal Stakeholders
  • Addressing litigation issues
  • Clarifying alternative analysis under NEPA
  • Better federal agency coordination
  • Additional authority for the Council on Environmental Quality
  • Clarifying the meaning of “cumulative impacts”
  • CEQ Studies of NEPA’s interaction with other Federal environmental laws

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that legislative and administrative reforms be made as appropriate to eliminate the onerous requirements resulting from misinterpretations of the original act, to streamline the NEPA process, to reduce the cost and time necessary to prepare NEPA documents, to modernize analytical requirements, and to clearly define the legal requirements for passing scrutiny in federal courts.