Washington D.C. Feb. 25, 2020 – House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.) testified today at a public hearing on the Trump administration’s proposed rollbacks of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. NEPA, one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws, has guaranteed public participation in major environmental decisions and protected public health for more than half a century.
“The administration’s efforts to gut NEPA through this proposed rule will make it easier for corporate polluters to hide the climate impacts of major projects, including oil and gas projects,” Grijalva testified today. “NEPA’s also a critical civil rights tool – it gives all Americans a voice in federal decision-making by allowing communities to be informed and weigh in on major proposed projects affecting their communities. When the NEPA process is cut short or weakened, ill-conceived projects advance that can have devastating public health and environmental consequences for American communities.”
“The core values of the National Environmental Policy Act are environmental protection and public input in federal decision-making, and this proposal and this process abandons those values,” said Senator Carper. “This proposed rule creates loopholes to avoid conducting environmental review and receiving public input. It ignores our climate reality, eliminating the requirement to consider cumulative environmental impacts. It would allow companies to write their own environmental impact statements, which is like offering a self-graded take-home exam. All the while, the public is being left out of this rulemaking process. NEPA is a 50-year-old law – but the American people have only been given 60 days to consider sweeping changes to how this landmark law is implemented. I urge CEQ to heed our call for greater public participation in this process and extend the deadline for the public comment period.”
Grijalva wrote to Mary Neumayr, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), on Feb. 20 to highlight his concerns about industry influence in the NEPA rewrite. A key excerpt of that letter, available in full at http://bit.ly/2HYnwK0, is provided below:
Reports of excessive oil and gas industry involvement during the development of the proposed rule have contributed to significant public concern that CEQ is attempting to enact the oil and gas industry’s deregulatory agenda at the expense of major public health and environmental protections afforded under NEPA. Reports also suggest that the oil and gas industry is behind CEQ’s damaging proposal to weaken or eliminate existing requirements that federal agencies disclose the climate change impacts of proposed projects.
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The Trump administration released draft regulations in January that would drastically weaken NEPA implementation. NEPA requires the federal government to analyze the environmental impacts of its actions and allows for public input in advance of federal decision-making. The administration’s proposed NEPA rule would restrict opportunities for public input; remove longstanding requirements that agencies consider the cumulative impacts of projects, which would undermine the consideration of climate change; and significantly limit the number and type of projects that receive environmental review, threatening environmental quality and public health.
Ranking Member Carper and Chairman Grijalva co-led a bicameral Congressional letter with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio and 164 member of Congress in January asking the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to extend the comment period on the proposed revisions from 60 days to 180 days and to hold five public meetings across the country rather than two. CEQ has not responded to that letter.
The 60-day public comment period on the proposal, which closes on March 10, has been mired in controversy. Only two public meetings have been scheduled, one of which was held in D.C. today. CEQ is imposing strict caps on the number of public attendees at the hearings, imposing strict time limits on public speakers, and refusing to broadcast either session, making it impossible for those not able to travel to a hearing site to follow the ostensibly public comment process.
Earlier this month, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) introduced a resolution opposing the rollbacks to NEPA proposed by the Trump administration.