Thursday, January 5, 2006
Tom Jensen of the CEQ stood in for Dinah Bear today at the Section on Natural Resources Law meeting. He brought an interesting message: NEPA 101 is alive and well, just not living in its old body. Despite Vermont Yankee, NEPA 101 has been relied upon in executive orders and agency directives. It was also placed in the Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution authorizing statute, which mandated that the institute address how to implement NEPA 101. The Institute appointed a broad based committee that concluded government competence to solve natural resources problems has decreased because of the contentiousness of the disputes, the harder problems that are being addressed, and the antipathy towards regulation. It recommended a change in the style of natural resources decision-making-- basing those decisions on consensus principles and direct democratic participation in the process. With the work of the NEPA taskforce this year, it is notable that NEPA 101 provides such consensus principles because the taskforce noted that NEPA 101 remains valid today. Jensen sees NEPA 101 as common language that can bring people to the table to work towards a community view. The question is whether NEPA 101 (with its broad array of consderations and language on rights and responsibilities) is sufficient. He also invited us to examine that question as well as questions of how the new decision-making processes mesh with FACA, the appointments clause, civil service rules, the winners and losers, the impacts on states and tribes. Interesting things may be happening!!!