Attorney General James Sues Trump Administration Over Rule Curtailing Environmental Review of Federal Actions

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today joined a coalition of 23 attorneys general and jurisdictions in filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s unlawful final rule curtailing requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that federal agencies review and assess the impact of their actions on the environment. The final rule also limits public participation in the review process, robbing vulnerable communities of the opportunity to make their voices heard on actions that are likely to have adverse environmental and health impacts. In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the final rule abandons informed decision making, public participation, and environmental and public health protections in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and NEPA.

“The Trump Administration’s attempt to undermine the National Environmental Policy Act is yet another example of its unapologetic, relentless dismantling of our nation’s environmental protections,” said Attorney General James. “By restricting the types of projects that undergo environmental review prior to their construction, it puts both our communities and our environment in harm’s way. My office is committed to fighting against this new rule and other similar efforts by the Trump Administration that undermine our nation’s bedrock environmental protection laws.”

Enacted in 1969, NEPA is one of the nation’s foremost environmental statutes. NEPA requires that before any federal agency undertakes “major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment,” it must consider the environmental impacts of the proposed actions, alternatives to the actions, and any available mitigation measures. Numerous federal actions, from the approval of significant energy and infrastructure projects to key decisions concerning the management of federal public lands, require compliance with NEPA. 

On July 15, the Trump Administration’s Council on Environmental Quality announced a final rule upending the requirement that federal agencies comprehensively evaluate the impacts of their actions on the environment and public health. This will result in agencies taking actions without fully understanding the impacts of those actions on climate change, overburdened and underserved communities, water and air quality, and sensitive, threatened, and endangered wildlife. In addition, the final rule so severely limits NEPA’s public participation process that it threatens to render it a meaningless paperwork exercise.

In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the final rule violates NEPA and APA because it:

  • Is contrary to NEPA’s language and purpose and exceeds the Council on Environmental Quality’s statutory authority;
  • Is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with law; and
  • Was promulgated without preparing an Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement evaluating the rule’s environmental and public health impacts.

Attorney General James represents the state of New York and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in this matter and joins the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, and Guam, as well as the city of New York, Harris County, and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection in filing the lawsuit.