WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today questioned White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Brenda Mallory.
On Monday, Ranking Member Capito wrote an op-ed for the Washington Examiner detailing how the Biden administration’s rollback of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review and permitting reforms not only delays infrastructure buildout following the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law, but also hinders the administration’s own energy goals. Click here to read the op-ed.
AMERICAN ENERGY INDEPENDENCE AND SUPPORTING OUR EUROPEAN ALLIES: “We see the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has put a light—and the president has talked about this—on the need for energy security both here and abroad. The president has mentioned the ability of the United States to help with liquefied natural gas and things of that nature to help Europe become less dependent on Putin. Would you agree that we must act immediately to replace Russian imports into Europe with American-made energy? Have you taken any specific actions to strengthen our energy security, increase our domestic energy production to meet this, and export more? I think the answer to that is no?”
PERMITTING IIJA PROJECTS: “On the permitting issue that I talked about with the IIJA, does this run into conflict with some of the goals that you’ve set forward in terms of a two-year timeline, a 90-day repeat, shortening the time of the projects? How do you see those working in conjunction with one another because we feel—and I feel—as though you could create a conflict there?”
POLICY INCONSISTENCY: “I was interested that one of the quotes from your opening statement is ‘more building in the next few years.’ It appears laced through your action plans that you took on the NEPA action plan regulatory changes—where you’ve taken down three of the major provisions that the Trump administration put forward only sets up more regulations from different federal regulators. Again, it looks like a burdensome package again to slow any kind of new construction or even a CCUS project.”
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OVERREACH: “In a filing to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year, the EPA ‘recommend[ed] that attention be paid to the costly irreversibility of constructing natural gas pipelines.’ EPA stated that ‘[a]n important question to consider is whether [pipeline] construction will: … lock in natural gas production and use at the expense of substitute energy sources with lower social costs….’ I would remind you that according to the WHEJAC, some of those projects that would be eliminated would be CCUS projects, direct air capture projects, nuclear projects. I was very concerned to see a similar line of thinking incorporated into the recent NEPA regulatory changes you signed last month. Under those regulations, the government defines the ‘purpose or need’ of a project under NEPA – and can override a project developer’s purpose. As I understand it – under these new regulations – an energy company could request permits for a natural gas plant and the federal government could instead say through the NEPA review that solar generation should be developed instead – regardless of the actual business case is.”
ONE FEDERAL DECISION: “One of the key project delivery provisions of IIJA was the codification of One Federal Decision for major transportation projects. In today’s fact sheet on the Permitting Action Plan – you state that the IIJA’s permitting provisions ‘enhance efficiency, accountability, and predictability and provide the tools needed to ensure timely and sound delivery of these historic infrastructure investments.’ You seem to recognize the critical role One Federal Decision plays in environmental review and permitting process. So as you move forward to Phase II of your update of NEPA, do you commit to keeping One Federal Decision in place as part of these regulations? I think you really have to follow the law here. It is in the law.”
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