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Weakening NEPA: How the Bush Administration Uses the Judicial System to Weaken Environmental Protections

September 2003

Citation: ELR 10682

Author: William Snape, John M. Carter

The Defenders of Wildlife Judicial Accountability Project—undertaken with the assistance of the Vermont Law School Clinic for Environmental Law and Policy—seeks to fill a data void on the environmental record of the current Bush Administration by analyzing all reported environmental cases in which the Administration has presented legal arguments regarding an existing environmental law, regulation, or policy before federal judges, magistrates, or administrative tribunals. By examining not only all judicial decisions pertaining to environmental issues, but also the legal briefs submitted to the judiciary, the aim has been to identify quantifiable trends on whether, or to what degree, President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, and their political appointees are working to preserve, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution and laws of the United States as sworn in their oaths of office.1

The focus of this particular Article is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970, the so-called grandparent or Magna Carta of environmental policy in our country.2 More specifically, this Article details all the NEPA cases decided by federal tribunals between January 21, 2001, and January 21, 2003, examining how the Bush Administration has interpreted NEPA's legal requirements and whether the federal judiciary agreed with the Bush Administration's interpretations.

William J. (Bill) Snape III, is Vice President and Chief Counsel at Defenders of Wildlife, a biodiversity advocacy group with approximately one million members and supporters, dedicated to protecting plants and animals in their native ecosystems. In this capacity, he manages all domestic and international legal programs, provides legal counsel on all program policy, and directs the organization's litigation before various courts and tribunals. Snape is the author of numerous articles on natural resources policy and is the editor of BIODIVERSITY AND THE LAW (Island Press 1996). Snape has taught at several law schools, including George Washington University, Georgetown University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He is formerly an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore School of law, and still serves as an advisor for the school's Environmental Law Journal. Snape is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, with a B.A. in history, magna cum laude, and he received his J.D. from George Washington University, where he was president of the Environmental Law Society. He serves on the board for the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources, WildCanada.Net, and the U.S. Endangered Species Coalition, where he is President and Chairman. He is married and has two children.

John M. Carter II is the Judicial Accountability Fellow at Defenders of Wildlife. Carter graduated from the University of the South with a B.A. in philosophy. He attended law school at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, receiving his J.D. with honors in 1997. Following his admission to the Kansas bar, Carter commenced a solo practice devoted to promoting environmental and rural issues. After preventing the establishment of massive hog concentrated animal feeding operations in two Kansas counties, Carter wound up his Kansas practice to hike the Appalachian Trail and continue his legal education at Vermont Law School. He received his LL.M. degree in environmental law from Vermont Law School, summa cum laude.

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