November 30, 2020 – Today, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva in support of the plaintiffs in Wild Virginia v. Council on Environmental Quality in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The plaintiffs are challenging the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) recent revisions to its regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—the foundational federal law that imposes a duty to prepare environmental impact statements on all federal agencies. CEQ’s new regulations will significantly weaken the effectiveness of the NEPA process by lessening the frequency and scope of NEPA analyses, reducing public involvement, and limiting judicial review.

The Clinic’s brief argues that the recent CEQ revisions are inconsistent with Congress’ intent in enacting NEPA. For example, Congress intended for NEPA to promote careful consideration of indirect and cumulative environmental impacts prior to federal agency action. The new CEQ revisions, however, remove the requirement to evaluate those impacts and allow projects to get underway before agencies have finished analyzing their effects. The brief argues that these changes, among others, will lead to real harms felt by the signatories’ constituents. By removing the requirement to evaluate cumulative impacts, for example, federal agencies will not take into account the siting of multiple polluting sources in one neighborhood, leading to agency decisions that could exacerbate the harm to nearby communities.

Clinical student Abbey Doyno, JD’22, worked on the brief under the supervision of Clinical Fellow Tommy Landers and Deputy Director Shaun Goho. Cale Jaffe, Director of the Environmental Law and Community Engagement Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law, served as local counsel for the filing.

The brief is available here: Wild Virginia v. Council On Environmental Quality (W.D. Va, Case No. 3:20-CV-00045-JPJ-PMS)

News coverage of the brief: