President’s Memo Outlines New Environmental Policy

Link to Memorandum here.

The Obama Administration advised the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Defense, EPA, and NOAA to avoid harming the environment by ensuring, at minimum, a “no net loss goal” for natural resources deemed important, scarce, or sensitive.  The Departments will forgo development of resources deemed “irreplaceable.”

The new policy requires federal regulators to evaluate every proposed natural resource project from a large-scale context, including water-shed and landscape impacts.  Going forward, the government’s policy will be to protect the environment by foreseeing and mitigating any damage ahead of time.  The Departments have been given a time table for finalizing mitigation mechanisms and guidance.

This is the latest episode in a controversy over energy developments in Indian Country.  Republicans in Congress are attempting to enact a law that would speed up energy development on Tribal lands after a GAO report criticized the 2005 federal process for transferring management of energy development to Tribes that has not resulted in any agreements (TERAs).