The U.S. District Court for Western Virginia denied a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the Trump Administration's revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) from becoming effective law on Sept. 14.
"These improvements create a better, faster NEPA process that will help protect America's natural resources,” said Kaitlynn Glover, executive director of natural resources for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA) and executive director of the Public Lands Council (PLC).
NCBA chief environmental counsel Scott Yager said when this new rule goes into effect, it will allow anyone subject to it, such as ranchers utilizing federal grazing allotments, to go through the NEPA process more quickly and effectively. In the example of wildfires, cattle producers play an important role in grazing down grass and mitigating fuel loads.
“In a time where millions of acres are already burning due to delayed or cancelled treatments bogged down as a result of inefficient NEPA processes, there is no time left to waste. That fact was recognized today by federal courts, who ruled that these NEPA revisions will move forward. Ranchers will now be able to move faster in making range improvements that can prevent and reduce the impacts of wildfires," Glover said.
Food & Water Watch and a coalition of organizations also filed a lawsuit in late July in the Northern District Court of California asserting that the new rule violates NEPA’s requirements.
Under current regulations, U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans and loan guarantees for building and operating new concentrated animal feeding operations are subject to NEPA review. The White House rollback would exempt these actions from NEPA review, which Food & Water Watch said is “opening the door for polluting facilities to receive government loan backing with no consideration of their environmental or community impacts and without notification to rural communities. FSA financing is essential for many factory farms that cannot obtain financing elsewhere.”
Yager said the NEPA reviews include a very laborious and time-consuming processing, and sometimes producers are walking way from utilizing them for USDA loans because of this. The Trump Administration’s update to the NEPA regulations make it “quicker, faster and more streamlined for producers to be able to take advantage of those programs,” he said.
NCBA is a party to the case, Wild Virginia et al. vs. Council on Environmental Quality et al., and contributed to the latest court victory.
"Let me be clear to anyone looking to bring any further lawsuits to delay this critical NEPA rule-making; NCBA and PLC will continue to fight for ranchers whose grazing practices mitigate wildfire and ensure the health and safety of thousands of communities across the West,” Glover said.