Lawmakers cheered President Donald Trump’s plans to substantively reform the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) for the first time in more than three decades.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Tuesday, beginning an exploratory public comment process to get feedback before specific changes to the law are proposed. The Congressional Western Caucus (CWC), made up of 70 bipartisan members, welcomed the news in statements Wednesday.
“Issued in 1978 and amended in 1986, the executive’s NEPA regulations governing the law’s implementation have barely been touched since they were first put in place,” GOP Rep. Paul Gosar, the CWC chairman, said in a statement. “Given how much we have learned about how the law plays out in practice since then — and how impactful these regulations are — this fact borders on outrageous.”
Trump specifically targeted environmental laws in his infrastructure plan released Feb. 12. NEPA’s original statutes and others, such as the Endangered Species Act, have bogged down infrastructure projects for decades creating delays that can last as long as 7.5 years, according to the American Action Forum. (RELATED: Trump Proposes Sweeping Changes To Decades-Old Environmental Laws)
“NEPA’s arbitrary and burdensome mandates are slowing infrastructure progress in the United States while doing little to actually improve environmental outcomes,” GOP Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. “I’m thankful CEQ and the Trump administration are serious about bringing our federal environmental review process into the 21st century.”
Environmentalists criticized the Trump administration’s move to reform one of the U.S.’s most comprehensive environmental laws, claiming the changes could undermine the environmental review process.
“[NEPA] is this nation’s environmental Magna Carta, ensuring that government decision makers consider the effects of their actions on the environment and giving the public a voice regarding federal projects that may profoundly affect their lives,” Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark said in a statement.
“With such a dismal track record of protecting our environment, and with such open interest in promoting the interests of developers and oil drillers, the Trump administration cannot be trusted when meddling with our nation’s bedrock environmental laws,” Clark added.
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