406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

Frank R. Lautenberg

Senator

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing and giving us the opportunity to learn about the energy project permitting process. I look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses. Former President Richard Nixon was a man who made a lot of political enemies. In fact, I was on his official ‘enemies list’ during the time when I was CEO of a major company.

 

As we look back today, I think we all acknowledge that despite his many enemies, Richard Nixon was in many ways a friend of the environment. It was during his presidency that our nation made a commitment to cleaning up our air and water, with the landmark Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

It was during his Republican Administration that we created the Environmental Protection Agency. And it was President Nixon who signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which required Environmental Impact Statements for major projects like roads and drilling for natural gas. Since then, five presidents of both parties have continued the legacy of protecting our environment, and honoring the right of citizens and states to have a voice in the process.

Unfortunately, the current Administration has chosen not to follow that path. This Administration seems especially sympathetic to complaints about regulatory processes that were put in place to protect our environment and health.

While, I am always willing to look for ways to improve efficiency, effectiveness and fairness in our rules and laws, I see no reason to backtrack from our commitment to ensure that citizens have a strong voice in matters that affect our environment.

NEPA – and the role it gives to citizens – is one of the best manifestations of democracy in our country. We must not erode NEPA’s protections or silence the voice of Americans, especially in projects that affect their own communities.

Yes, environmental reviews cost money – and energy companies can afford it. To take just one example, ExxonMobil’s profits increased by 44 percent in the last quarter!

We can – and we should – look for ways to improve and perhaps streamline our processes for granting permits for vital projects. But we must never allow the convenience of corporations to trample the rights and the health of the American people.