by Bruce Walker
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) introduced a resolution opposing changes proposed by the Trump Administration aimed at scaling back certain provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
NEPA, passed by Congress in 1969 and signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970, mandated environmental impact assessments by federal agencies prior to proceeding with any proposed action, including construction of roads, bridges, highways and airports.
The Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) also states NEPA processes are required for permitting such projects as “water infrastructure, conventional and renewable energy developments” and overseeing “land, forest, and fishery management activities.”
Opponents of updating the rules claim it will result in dire environmental consequences. Proponents say it will simplify the permitting process for major government projects by eliminating layers of bureaucratic redundancies.
The Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ), introduced the updated rules and is conducting a public comment period ending on March 10. The CEQ noted there hasn’t been a comprehensive update of NEPA since 1978.
The resolution introduced by Dingell is co-sponsored by House Committee on Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Arizona, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D-Virginia, and U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colorado.
“The administration continues its onslaught of environmental laws that have cleaned up our waters, our air, and our soil. This is one more attack,” Dingell said in a prepared statement.
“Communities have the right to have their voices heard on the environment, public health, and endangered species. The health and safety of many communities depend on their ability to speak up and make their voices heard,” Dingell continued.“NEPA has received bipartisan, widespread support for more than 50 years. Our resolution sends a clear message that the Administration must abide by the law and ensure all communities have a voice in the decisions that affect them.”
“The Trump administration has spent the past three years finding new ways to tear up, misinterpret, ignore and destroy our public health and environmental laws to keep polluters happy,” House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul M. Grijalva said in a statement.
“The National Environmental Policy Act is one of the most important tools Americans have to prevent climate change and weigh in on government decisions that affect their lives, which is exactly what this administration and its industry boosters don’t want,” he continued.
Mackinac Center for Public Policy Environmental Policy Director Jason Hayes told The Center Square he supports the CEQ’s updated rules, saying they eliminate red tape and therefore save taxpayers money spent on waiting for permit approvals.
“Rep. Debbie Dingell claims the proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act ‘do not serve the interest of the American public at large,’ but she knows that bureaucratic red tape is no substitute for effective environmental protection,” he said.
“Under the proposed changes, environmental impact statements will still be required, they will just need to be reviewed, and approved or rejected in two years instead of being dragged on for as long as a decade,” Hayes continued.
Hayes said the new rules will reduce the delays that stall the review process.
“The proposed updates are long overdue because, as it is implemented today, NEPA does more to protect the jobs and bank accounts of overzealous environmental lawyers than it does to protect the natural environment,” he said.
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