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New Report Addresses Opportunity to Improve Integrity of US Environmental Law

Changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) would address global environmental protection

February 25, 2022 - Minneapolis (MN) - A white paper released today by Minneapolis-based Dovetail Partners proposes changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which, according to report authors, would improve the integrity of US environmental law and practices, and more effectively address environmental protection at the global scale.   

The Dovetail team notes that while successful in protecting natural and scenic assets of the United States, the NEPA act of 1970 has resulted in the systematic transfer of environmental impacts of raw material procurement and related actions to other nations, often magnifying impacts in the process. The ongoing problem stems from the fact there is no requirement within NEPA to consider environmental impacts of proposed actions beyond the borders of the US.  

The report points out that US import dependence for many of the raw materials that support the US economy and lifestyle is large and growing despite the availability of many of these materials domestically. Minerals, in particular, are imported on a vast scale, including 33 of 35 minerals deemed critical to US national security. About a third of construction lumber is also imported each year. 

Recommended changes would involve minor expansion of NEPA requirements and guidance for associated environmental impact statements, particularly for any proposed policy change or action that would have the effect of significantly reducing or effectively eliminating domestic resource development. Similar change is recommended at the state level for the 16 states, including Minnesota, which have enacted legislation patterned after NEPA. The new requirements would not mandate changes in outcomes, but would require that consideration of impacts beyond international boundaries be at least on the table in the process of environmental decision-making. 

Report authors conclude that action is needed to expand the NEPA framework to include consideration of potential global impacts of domestic actions. They note that now more than ever it is essential to address environmental protections at the global scale. 

The full report can be accessed here: https://dovetailinc.org/portfoliodetail.php?id=62164327d6126 

To discuss report findings, reach out to Kathryn Fernholz at info@dovetailinc.org , 612-333-0430

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