House Committee Looks At Modernizing Federal Environmental Reviews

Nov 29, 2017

House Committee on Natural Resources Logo
Credit House Committee on Natural Resources

The House Committee on Natural Resources held an oversight hearing to discuss “modernizing” the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. The nearly 50-year old legislation requires federal agencies to conduct environmental reviews for new projects like highways, mines on federal lands, or a public facility. 

Industries out west have long argued NEPA is duplicative, inefficient, and delays projects while forcing companies to spend extra time and money. And many Republicans want to change that. Chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources Rob Bishop (R-Utah) is one of them. 

“The environment can have a review and in a timely manner and it does not have to be mutually exclusive.” He said, "But it simply won’t happen unless Congress actually acts to clarify NEPA’s intent, its scopes, and its litigation." 

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz), a ranking member on the Committee on Natural Resources, does not agree that NEPA needs changing. He said the act makes economic development more sustainable, more just, and less wasteful. 

“Time and again we have debunked Republican myths about NEPA causing excessive delays, frivolous lawsuits, and damage to our economy.” He said, "blaming NEPA for uncovering bad projects is like blaming a tumor on the X-Ray that discovered it.” 

Aside from Congress, President Trump has already rescinded guidance enacted by the Obama administration to consider the impacts of climate change from greenhouse gases in environmental reviews. The Department of Interior is also looking to streamline the review process.