Coalition Comments on CEQ’s Proposed Rule “National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Regulations Revisions”

Dear Chair Mallory: The Agricultural Retailers Association, American Chemistry Council, American Exploration & Production Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, American Gas Association, American Public Gas Association, American Public Power Association, American Road & Transportation Builders Association, Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America, Association of American Railroads, The Fertilizer Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Manufacturers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Lime Association, National Mining Association, National Ocean Industries Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, Public Lands Council, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce (collectively, the “Coalition”) offer the following comments in response to the Council on Environmental Quality’s (“CEQ’s”) proposed revisions to its regulations (“Proposed Rule”) implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).1 Our organizations represent a diverse set of economic sectors that form the backbone of the American economy—agriculture, energy, construction, forestry, manufacturing, transportation, and other sectors. Through the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the United States has made the most significant investment in infrastructure since the New Deal. The Act will promote projects that will enable the movement of people, goods, information, and energy to support the American economy. To ensure that the Act succeeds, further efforts are needed. In order to realize this investment, the Administration should ensure an efficient and transparent NEPA review process.

Coalition Letter on CEQ’s Interim Final Rule, “Deadline for Agencies to Propose Updates to National Environmental Policy Act Procedures”

Dear Ms. Coyle: The undersigned organizations appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) June 29, 2021, interim final rule, “Deadline for Agencies to Propose Updates to National Environmental Policy Act Procedures,” (the “Delay Rule”).1 We support the environmental stewardship goals of NEPA and are concerned that the Delay Rule will create confusion and uncertainty and ultimately lead to further delays in agency decisionmaking, associated infrastructure construction, and economic development for the Nation and communities that need it most. By delaying by two years the date by which agencies will be required to propose updates to their NEPA implementing procedures, CEQ is adding considerable uncertainty and delay to federal agency decision-making and private sector investment. The 2020 Rule2 is the current law that agencies are legally required to follow, but CEQ’s statements in the Delay Rule — including the statement that the agency “has substantial concerns about the legality of the 2020 Rule,” “the process that produced the rule,” and “the severity of CEQ’s concerns, and the likelihood that CEQ will propose significant amendments to the 2020 Rule” — all create ambiguity in what is now required for NEPA review.

Environmental permitting might block Biden’s clean energy targets

President Joe Biden has been forging ahead with his infrastructure agenda, having released his $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan in March and convening 40 world leaders in April to discuss related climate issues. The president’s infrastructure plan is not timid—especially its energy transition agenda, which calls for our nation’s power generation to be carbon-free by 2035. To understand the magnitude of this transition, it would require replacing 838 gigawatts (GW) of generation capacity, or approximately 80% of the nation’s total. Two major obstacles stand in the way of the U.S. meeting this 2035 goal: adequate funding and the government’s ability to provide permits necessary to deploy wind and solar generation. The administration attempted to tackle the need for adequate funding head-on by proposing $100 billion in additional federal funding and providing tax and other incentives for renewable power. The permitting challenges, though, remain a key sticking point that need to be addressed.

Coalition Letter to Congress in Support of NEPA Modernization

TO THE MEMBERS OF UNITED STATES CONGRESS: As Congress develops infrastructure legislation to stimulate the economy and improve the quality of life for every American, the undersigned organizations urge you to prioritize improvements to the federal permitting process. We fully support the fundamental environmental stewardship goals of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and believe a modernized NEPA process would enhance the ability to realize our shared goals of COVID 19 economic recovery and continued progress on environmental protections, including climate change. Given the current economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, investing in our infrastructure will encourage growth and increase opportunity, but in particular, can help the communities hit the hardest. Building resilient highways and other infrastructure will help link neighborhoods to businesses and job centers and provide better access to clean water and affordable energy. Investments in telecommunications infrastructure will support virtual learning and drive entrepreneurial opportunities. Improving roads, bridges and the efficiency of the distribution of goods will reduce traffic congestion and emissions associated with it. However, these needed investments will fail to deliver if the efficiency of the federal environmental review and permitting process is not improved.

Coalition Letter Opposing NEPA Amendment in House FY2021 Appropriations

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The undersigned trade associations and labor unions oppose amendment #72 to Division C of H.R. 7608, the first package of appropriations legislation that would block implementation of recently completed reforms to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. These important reforms will ensure a federal permitting process that is predictable and transparent, where “go” or “no go” decisions are made in a reasonable timeframe, and facilitates getting Americans back to work rebuilding critical infrastructure that will move people, goods, energy and information. Our organizations strongly support a thorough environmental review process for projects under NEPA, but it should not take longer to get a decision on a permit than it would for construction of a project. Unfortunately, that is often the case today. NEPA’s permitting procedures have not been comprehensively updated since the 1970s and since then, the review times have increased to 4.5 years on average and to almost seven years for transportation projects. Reducing delays for sustainable transportation projects would reduce congestion related emissions and improve the quality of life for communities. | NRECA Applauds Streamlining of NEPA Federal Environmental Permitting Process

Federal environmental regulations that often delay and drive up costs on projects like grid maintenance, renewable energy deployments and rural broadband are getting a long-overdue makeover, and that’s a good thing for electric cooperatives. Starting Sept. 14, the National Environmental Policy Act will offer a more efficient and predictable federal permitting process under a final rule announced this week by the White House Council on Environmental Quality.