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 impact statement (EIS) that will satisfy the court unless, of course, the court is predisposed to approve of the decision the EIS is written to support. This has caused absolute gridlock in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. This resolution is intended to call upon Congress to enact meaningful NEPA reform to make the law a workable part of the federal decisionmaking process.
WHEREAS, one of the principal requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is for the federal government to disclose the environmental impacts of major federal actions in a document called an Environmental Impact Statement, and
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 an EIS 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, many legal scholars believe it may be impossible for an Environmental Impact Statement to pass legal scrutiny based on the three decades of interpretive evolution of the statute, particularly in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED, that the Oregon Logging Conference go on record in support of significant reform of the National Environmental Policy Act to restore its original intent to disclose environmental impacts of federal actions and to carefully review over 30 years of case law and legal interpretations for consistency with the original intent of the law, and
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.