Wyoming Governor announces support for Trump NEPA rollback - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Wyoming Governor announces support for Trump NEPA rollback

Governor Mark Gordon talks during a ceremony for 23 veterans on Wednesday, September 18, 2019, in Evansville. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

CASPER, Wyo. —  Governor Mark Gordon has issued a statement regarding President Donald Trump’s announcement that the President was seeking to “modernize National Environmental Policy Act regulations.

In a dramatic rollback of environmental oversight, President Donald Trump took action Thursday to clear the way and speed up development of a wide range of commercial projects by cutting back federal review of their impact on the environment.

“The United States can’t compete and prosper if a bureaucratic system holds us back from building what we need,” Trump said at the White House in announcing the proposed regulatory rollback, surrounded by Cabinet secretaries, industry leaders and workers in hard hats.

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Trump’s proposal calls for greatly narrowing the scope of the half-century-old National Environmental Policy Act, signed by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970. It was one of the first of that era’s fundamental environmental laws, along with the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, that spelled out the country’s principal protections.

That National Environmental Policy Act required federal agencies to consider whether a project would harm the air, land, water or wildlife. It also gave the public, including people living in the neighborhood around a proposed dam, pipeline or other big project, the right of review and input. Congress said at the time that the nation was moving to “fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations.”

Environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers countered that the proposed rollback would gut major environmental protections and take away the public’s right to know and comment on a project’s potential harms.

Key among the changes proposed is one that would newly limit the requirement for federal environmental review to projects that have major federal funding.

The change would mean a range of predominantly privately funded and managed projects would not fall under the law’s requirement for federal environmental study and for public review and comment.

Other changes including giving federal agencies no more than two years to evaluate any environmental impact of a project.

The proposal is to be published in the Federal Register in coming days, followed by a 60-day period for public comment.

Groups representing professional state and urban planners spoke out against the administration’s proposal.

“Ignoring the future impact of climate change as part of the nation’s core environmental review law will only increase costs of development and future disaster recovery on taxpayers and communities, while making us all more vulnerable to its already apparent effects,” the American Planning Association and the Association of State Floodplain Managers said in a statement.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told reporters that Trump would “deliver a home run … by cutting red tape that has paralyzed decision making” on projects.

Trump has called throughout his presidency for oil and gas pipelines, in particular, to move ahead despite local opposition. He has advocated shortening the time and length of environmental reviews for projects.

Industry, including the oil and gas sector, has pushed the administration to make good on its pledges for changes in how the federal government enforces the NEPA when it comes to approving or disapproving projects.

Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act into law as public outrage over the 1969 oil spill off Santa Barbara, California, and other pollution of the country’s air, water and land spurred creation of the country’s major environmental protections.

Wyoming’s Governor Mark Gordon pledged his support, as well as that of the state, to “modernize” the NEPA.

The Governor’s statement is published below:

I support President Trump’s leadership to direct the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) reform of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

NEPA is an important policy tool to ensure proper consideration of the environmental effects of proposed major Federal actions. It is not a platform to engage in speculative fancy, nor should it be seen as a convenient mechanism to obstruct development. Rather, the NEPA process should inform and improve proposed actions by facilitating a better understanding of the potential impacts of those actions.

As home to the nation’s first national park, we in Wyoming are particularly proud of our environment and protective of our natural resources. Wyoming has worked closely with our federal partners over the years to balance protection of the environment and opportunities for faster turnaround on decision making. States and cooperating agencies are essential partners and can deploy invaluable resources to assist this process. Wyoming stands ready to help.

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, written statement, dated January 9, 2020

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