Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation
There have been a lot of discussions surrounding the infrastructure bill that is going through Congress.
The bill has a lot of good things in it that will benefit American infrastructure, but with the good, there is also bad.
Snuck into the bill are provisions that weaken the National Environmental Policy Act.
The National Environmental Policy Act is the most important law providing safeguards for Indigenous communities like Fort Berthold.
The National Environmental Policy Act requires more involvement of the federal agencies for major projects on trust land.
The National Environmental Policy Act also directs federal agencies to assess potential environmental effects of proposed actions significantly affecting the environment, human and otherwise and to inform the public about these assessments, sometimes through an environmental impact statement.
This is important for all projects but particularly for oil and gas development on tribal lands like my home in Mandaree, North Dakota.
Because of the National Environmental Policy Act, tribal citizens hear about potential impacts and can respond to the proposed projects via public comment periods.
If the National Environmental Policy Act is weakened, so is my safety and that of my family and my people.
Our health and well-being are already threatened by existing development, so the government shouldn’t allow more projects to be approved with even worse standards.
The infrastructure bill includes pieces that put federal lands, including tribal lands at risk by limiting the length of important sections of an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) such as the “alternatives analysis” and granting only two years to complete the environmental review process, one of many “shot clocks” for NEPA review that will limit how thorough the environmental review processes will be and so, putting me and all other tribal citizens at risk.
The National Environmental Policy Act should only be made stronger to protect the health of federal lands, especially those held in trust by the government for tribes. I hope the U.S. Congress does what’s best for me and my people and removes the changes that weaken the National Environmental Policy Act.
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