Chamber Champions NEPA Provision in Stimulus Bill, Compiles List of Blocked Infrastructure Projects | U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Chamber Champions NEPA Provision in Stimulus Bill, Compiles List of Blocked Infrastructure Projects

Wednesday, August 4, 2010 - 8:00pm

February 20, 2009

The recently passed stimulus bill (H.R.1) contained a commonsense provision expediting National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental reviews for all projects funded under the bill. The Chamber lobbied extensively for this provision, and its inclusion in the stimulus bill is a major victory for the business community. It states in part:

Adequate resources within this bill must be devoted to ensuring that applicable environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act are completed on an expeditious basis and that the shortest existing applicable process under the National Environmental Policy Act be utilized. (Title XVI, §1607 (3)(a).)

The President shall report to [Congress] every 90 days following the date of enactment until September 30, 2011 on the status and progress of projects and activities funded by this Act with respect to compliance with National Environmental Policy Act requirements and documentation. (Title XVI, §1607 (3)(b).)

The inclusion of the NEPA provision is especially important given that EPA is seriously considering regulating CO2 as a pollutant this year. If EPA does regulate CO2, it is conceivable that even "shovel-ready" projects under the stimulus bill that have already completed the NEPA review process will have to start all over again to include CO2. An expedited NEPA process will be critical to ensuring stimulus money for projects is quickly disbursed into our economy.

NEPA, with its costly and time-consuming environmental reviews and impact statements, historically has been used by environmental activists to stall or prevent many hundreds and perhaps thousands of federal projects since it was signed into law in 1970. Activists do this by obtaining injunctions against proposed projects until the controlling federal agency has prepared a "satisfactory" Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under NEPA. The lawsuit and subsequent EIS have the effect of delaying a project – often indefinitely – thereby stymieing jobs and economic growth. More than 1,000 lawsuits have been filed since January 1, 2000 alone. In fact, NEPA lawsuits are so prevalent, often the mere threat of a lawsuit (even where one is never filed) makes the EIS preparation process that much more costly and time-consuming for covered projects. In response to the ongoing threat of litigation, EIS documents have become increasingly costly and lengthy, as have the time frames to complete the NEPA process.

The Chamber, in an effort to draw attention to the destructive use of NEPA as tool for activists to stop economic progress, has begun compiling a list of energy projects that have been delayed or killed by environmentalists, using NEPA as well as other means. With more than 300 projects on the list already, it is very clear that NEPA is less about considering environmental impacts than it is about preventing permitting and obstructing infrastructure projects.

The Chamber is committed to building upon this list. To that end, we would ask that anyone with knowledge of a project that has been stalled or terminated due to NEPA concerns to provide us with the project information as soon as possible. The Chamber will then host this list on its Web site.

If you have any questions or would like additional information on this topic, please contact Shannon Meade 202-463-5696 or by email at smeade@uschamber.com.