WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today led her Republican colleagues on the committee in a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor expressing strong opposition to the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) decision to formally review Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12, the Corps’ general permit for oil or natural gas pipeline activities.
“The timing of your announcement to review NWP 12 is both disappointing and perplexing, considering the recent spike in energy prices and the rapid rise of inflation economy-wide, as well as the crisis in Ukraine and demand for American energy from our allies,” the members wrote. “Your decision to formally review NWP 12 is yet another example of creating unnecessary obstacles and uncertainty for development of critical energy projects. Complicated, time-consuming, and most importantly, unnecessary permitting processes remain one of the biggest hindrances to our nation’s infrastructure buildout. The decision to single out and review NWP 12 for oil and gas pipelines is purely political, as this policy action is not required by statute or any regulatory deadlines.”
In addition to Ranking Member Capito, the following Republican senators on the EPW Committee signed the letter: Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
View the full letter here and below:
Dear Assistant Secretary Connor:
We write to express our strong opposition to your decision to formally review Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12 for Oil or Natural Gas Pipeline Activities. As you know, on January 13, 2021, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) promulgated a rule that reissued 12 existing nationwide permits and issued four new nationwide permits. The Corps split NWP 12 – which previously covered all “utility line activities” – into three parts based on the type of utility activity seeking a permit. NWP 12 continues to authorize oil and gas pipelines; the new NWP 57 relates to electric utility line and telecommunications; and NWP 58 addresses utility line activities for water and other substances. By reforming the NWP 12 process, the Corps was able to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of permitting, while still ensuring environmental protection.
The timing of your announcement to review NWP 12 is both disappointing and perplexing, considering the recent spike in energy prices and the rapid rise of inflation economy-wide, as well as the crisis in Ukraine and demand for American energy from our allies. In recent months, we have seen the price of gasoline skyrocket to more than $4 per gallon, while the price of diesel has risen to over $5 per gallon. Abroad, Russian aggression requires us to offer our European partners an alternative supply of energy.
Sadly, this decision follows other energy policies from this Administration that fly in the face of domestic and geopolitical realities. In truth, the current energy price spikes were set in motion on the first day of President Biden’s Administration, which seems dead set on decimating America’s energy sector. Your decision to formally review NWP 12 is yet another example of creating unnecessary obstacles and uncertainty for development of critical energy projects. Complicated, time-consuming, and most importantly, unnecessary permitting processes remain one of the biggest hindrances to our nation’s infrastructure buildout. The decision to single out and review NWP 12 for oil and gas pipelines is purely political, as this policy action is not required by statute or any regulatory deadlines.
Similarly baffling, a recent court filing by the Administration recognizes the benefits of NWP 12 and contradicts the justifications for the Corps’ announced review. Just last month, the Administration informed the US District Court for the District of Montana in ongoing litigation that “Vacatur of NWP 12 would be extremely disruptive to the Corps and to entities constructing and repairing oil and gas pipeline projects across the country.” The Administration also maintained that “the Corps reasonably scoped its review of potential effects under NEPA and properly considered those effects.” Any regulatory changes concerning NWP 12 would have far-reaching implications for project sponsors, our energy security, and the livelihoods of American workers and consumers. As the Administration clearly stated in the above-referenced court filing:
Vacatur [of NWP 12] would thus operate to require a cumbersome individualized Corps permitting process for thousands of projects across the country, contravening the statutory design Congress created in Section 404(e). That would be the case even for activities that required only a few square feet of fill at a single location. The resulting programmatic impacts on the Corps would be large, and lead to delays in permitting.
We could not agree more. That the Corps is kicking off a review of NWP 12 as the Administration defends the process the Administration followed in developing NWP 12 in court – in a filing made on the same day that President Biden made an energy announcement demonstrating support for maximization of American liquid natural gas exports to support our allies in Europe2 – demonstrates a lack of policy coherence. This incoherence impedes the deployment of essential energy production and infrastructure. The federal government must pursue policies that responsibly protect our environment while supporting economic growth, job creation, and energy security for Americans and our allies. With all of these factors in mind, the only logical course of action is for the Corps to suspend its proposed formal review of the NWP 12 and maintain, unchanged, the commonsense provisions of the existing NWP 12.
Thank you for your consideration of this request and we look forward to your timely response.
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