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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Petition is Over the Fence


I tossed my petition over the White House fence today.  Actually not; I sent it by Priority Mail – the only likely difference being that it cost me six bucks but I didn’t have to go downtown.

The petition, faithful readers may recall, asks the president to:

“Please seek amendments to the National Environmental Policy Act, or issue an executive order, to require honest, objective impact assessment that respectfully involves and is responsive to the public, and that happens BEFORE decisions are made to promote projects.”

578 people signed the petition, and I’m very grateful to each and every one of you.  I imagine that all our signatures are wasted, but one has to try.  Thanks very much to all.

I covered the petition with the following letter:

Dear President Obama:

I supported your 2008 presidential campaign, and continue to support you on most issues, but am deeply disappointed with your handling of environmental matters. 

My specific concern is with environmental impact assessment (EIA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and related legal authorities.  EIA in my experience has become largely an exercise in whitewashing plans for projects that often have serious potential for damage to our natural and cultural heritage.  I published a book on this subject in 2009 (Our Unprotected Heritage; Left Coast Press), and hoped that your administration would recognize the problem and do something about it.  There has been no evidence of recognition, and you have made the problem worse with your simple-minded direction to agencies to “fast-track” ostensibly “clean” energy development in the west.  This has had particularly devastating impacts on the environments of Indian tribes, whose interests you suggested you would attend to when you endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

To see if I was utterly alone in my concern about this issue, I sponsored a petition via Sign-on.org – something I had never done before and in which I admit to no expertise.  I can’t say the petition exactly went viral, but it did attract over 500 signatures, many of them from people who are deeply involved in EIA and related fields.  This petition and its list of signatories are enclosed for your reference.

The petition asks you to do something about the core problem with EIA – that it is bought and paid for by the proponents of the projects whose impacts it is supposed to assess.  Addressing this problem would, I recognize, be in diametric opposition to the irresponsible “improvements” currently proposed to NEPA in the House of Representatives in H.R. 4377.

My sad experience with your administration to date does not give me cause for hope, but enclosed is my petition for what it is worth.

Sincerely,

 I don't have the least expectation that this will accomplish anything, but I still appreciate the initiative and responsibility of all who joined me in the effort.

Tom

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