The Bush administration has decided to withdraw a proposed National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) rule before it leaves office that would have given more control over environmental reviews to the fishing industry while limiting the public's ability to participate in key decisions impacting the oceans. This decision to withdraw the NEPA proposal effectively passes the controversial rulemaking by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NFMS) to the new Obama administration.
“We're pleased that the Bush administration has listened to the outpouring of public opposition and decided to drop this flawed proposal,” said Lee Crockett, director of Federal Fisheries Policy at the Pew Environment Group. “This will allow President-elect Obama to take ownership of this rule and rewrite it to protect our oceans and the livelihoods of those who depend on them.”
Congress and President Bush recently revised the nation's primary fisheries management law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, with bold new provisions to strengthen ocean fish management. If the NMFS proposal had passed, it would have created procedures allowing fishery managers to regulate their own activities. It would have also established a new environmental review process that would have severely weakened the application of NEPA to ocean fisheries management.
“We're hopeful that the Obama administration will develop a new NEPA rule that requires a thorough environmental review of fisheries actions and meaningful opportunities for public participation, which will allow public officials to make informed policy decisions that benefit everyone,” said Crockett.
NEPA reviews have a long history of environmental success. This law has made it possible to protect thousands of square miles of coral formations, reduce mortality of endangered sea turtles and begin the rebuilding of depleted fish populations. The proposed NEPA rule met fierce opposition across the country with over 80 members of Congress on record against this change.