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RAPID Act: The Latest Attack on NEPA

Amanda Jahshan

Posted July 16, 2013

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Last week the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law held a hearing on The RAPID Act, House Republicans’ latest attempt to gut NEPA.  This act, along with other legislation aimed at dismantling NEPA, operates under the assumption that NEPA is the primary source of project delay and cancellation.  You know what happens when you assume… and no one wants that.  So let’s stop assuming and start talking facts. 

The General Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Research Service (CRS) have put together multiple reports over the past two decades researching the sources of delay in federal projects.  In a 2012 report on federally funded highway projects, GAO pointed to local and state factors, funding issues, and local opposition (to name a few) as primary sources of project delay.  You might notice something about these issues…they are not part of the NEPA process. 

GAO’s findings are echoed on the Chamber of Commerce’s website, “Project No Project.”  The 350+ stories on their site supposedly demonstrate how NIMBYism (a clever acronym for “not in my back yard” activism) kills jobs.  Their site and stories are cited regularly in congressional testimony and by conservative members attempting to streamline NEPA.  Here is the problem with that: NEPA does not = NIMBYism.  The vast majority of the Chamber’s stories have nothing to do with NEPA.  For the most part, similar to the findings in the GAO report, local opposition, county ordinances, and other non-NEPA factors slowed these projects.  The Chamber even listed an example that said the “main delay came from natural causes.  Damage from Hurricane Ike in 2008 forced the project to suspend construction for one year.” Surely they can’t blame this one on NEPA.   

So if NEPA isn’t the cause of the delay, it would be silly to promote a bill that forces project approvals regardless of public interest and creates even more delay with ambiguous statutory language, right?  The folks proposing the rollbacks claim the modifications won’t substantively affect NEPA, but instead will merely “streamline” the process.  I don’t know about you, but significantly shortening the public comment period and limiting the amount of good information that can inform the public and their decision makers about a project sounds a lot more like steamrolling than “streamlining.” 

Tell your representatives in Congress that you want your voice heard.  Demand that shortcuts aren’t taken when it comes to your health, your home, and your environment. Stand up for NEPA so it can continue to stand up for you. 

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Michael BerndtsonJul 16 2013 04:58 PM

I'm wondering if Republicans' ultimate goal with NEPA is to dismantle the entire US EPA. This specific issue is just one chip of many more to follow. I might be mistaken, but didn't the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 establish the Environmental Protection Agency?

I truly take Rick Perry and many other Republicans at their word - which is to completely gut federal enforcement of environmental protection.

Amanda JahshanJul 18 2013 12:57 PM

Hi Michael! NEPA didn't establish the EPA, but it did establish The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and gave them the task of ensuring that federal agencies meet their obligations under the Act.

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