Science and Environment

Oregon joins multi-state lawsuit against Trump administration changes to NEPA

By Monica Samayoa (OPB)
Aug. 29, 2020 1:38 a.m.

Oregon has joined a multi-state federal lawsuit against the Trump Administration, over changes to a bedrock environmental law — rule revisions that eliminate environmental review and reduce public input for projects.

The states of Washington and California are leading a coalition of 27 states, commonwealths, territories, counties and cities — claiming last month’s changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, abandon the principles of informed decision-making, public accountability and environmental protection.


Since its inception in 1970, NEPA has required federal agencies to evaluate the environmental effects in communities where there are proposed projects, developments, or resource extraction like mining, logging, or drilling for fossil fuels. The law also allows citizens and advocates to speak out on draft versions of environmental impact statements and engage in a transparent process for better informed decision-making.


In July, the Trump administration announced it would eliminate or reduce environmental impact reports for some projects and streamline the approval process for pipelines and other projects. The administration claims its changes will “reduce paperwork and delays and promote better decisions consistent with the national environmental policy.”

Critics said these changes would weaken public engagement and could potentially put communities in harm’s way. They argue NEPA was designed to be a transparency law.

Oregon’s attorney general Ellen Rosenblum said allowing the Trump administration to gut the essential protections provided by this law is not something she will let stand.

“I am committed to defending the environment and processes that ensure transparency in federal decision-making that directly and substantially affect our communities, natural resources, and public health,” Rosenblum said. “The suit filed today is just one of dozens of challenges—over 180 in the past three years—that Oregon has joined in defense of environmental laws, climate, and clean energy policies.”

Columbia Riverkeeper’s Legal and Program Director Lauren Goldberg said the fossil fuel industry has targeted Oregon and Washington to build some of the most destructive projects in North America. She said NEPA helps answer questions communities and the public may have about those projects, including concerns about public health.

“President Trump’s attempt to silence government disclosure will not stand up in the courts of law or public opinion,” Columbia Riverkeeper’s Legal and Program Director Lauren Goldberg said.