Our environment is at stake in key nomination fight
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As the largest environmental law organization in America, we want to offer our sincere congratulations on Mary Neumayr’s nomination to serve as the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), but we’d ask her to remember who she is supposed to protect – the American people and the environment they depend on, not big corporations.

From an organization of attorneys to a nominee who’s also an attorney, we hope that Ms. Neumayr’s nomination will serve as an opportunity for an open, honest and adult discussion of how we can safeguard bedrock environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and protect clean air, clean water and public lands for our families. Make no mistake: we are living in a time when the environment needs someone to stick up for it. Time and time again, Republican lawmakers and now, this administration, have tried to gut NEPA policies with an eye toward silencing public input on important projects affecting the life of communities throughout the country.

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While the president has chosen to ignore the facts, science, and respect for our most vulnerable communities, we hope that Ms. Neumayr will curb those actions and advise him about his responsibility to protect all peoples, appreciate science in the process of a well-informed decision and, most importantly, lead a government that answers to its people and not to corporate interests.

Her nomination, therefore, comes at a crossroads for community and environmental protection in America. As head of CEQ, she would play a crucial role in ensuring that all Americans maintain the legal right, through NEPA, to advocate to develop, improve or stop federal project proposals that will have lasting effects on local public health and environmental safety. Ms. Neumayr could choose to stand up for everyday Americans and give them a voice in federal decisions, or choose to side with the wealthy corporate polluters who see this administration as a vehicle to stifle dissent against their anti-environmental agendas that put communities at risk. The effects of her choice will be felt for decades to come.

If, for example, federal projects like roads, incinerators or oil pipelines could be rushed through without hearing from local communities first or sufficiently studying their impacts, the effects on public health could be devastating. Toddlers could drink dirty water. Families could live next to unsafe pipelines at risk of leaking or exploding at any moment. Children in grade school could inhale dangerous, dirty air as they walk to class. Small businesses could be displaced, hampering local economies. Without NEPA, these long-lasting and harmful health effects might never receive the consideration they deserve. It’s the job of CEQ – and especially the head of CEQ – to ensure that NEPA protections remain in force and local communities are able to provide input.

We welcome the opportunity to talk with Ms. Neumayr about pressing environmental issues such as these. Her potential new role as chair of CEQ means that she will be the one to address environmental concerns like intrusive, dangerous gas pipelines running through our communities and excessively polluting power plants that spew toxics into communities of color and low income. We want to serve as her partner as we all work together to protect the land we live on, the air we breathe and the water we drink. If those are her priorities, we’re willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and work with her to see them accomplished.

We believe that respect for democracy and the rule of law should supersede our suspicions about the leanings of a nominee. We are willing to have a serious conversation about important issues.

We will not, however, turn a blind eye to attempts to silence people and erode Americans’ rights to protect the health and safety of their communities. We stand with people and against polluting corporate interests and we sincerely hope that Ms. Neumayr will stand with us.

Raul Garcia Senior Legislative Counsel for Earthjustice.