Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a hearing titled “Oversight of the Council on Environmental Quality.”
The hearing featured testimony from Mary Neumayr, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.
For more information on witness testimony click here.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Today, we’re going to conduct oversight on the Council on Environmental Quality.
“I welcome our witness, Mary Neumayr, who is chairman of the council.
“In January, the Senate confirmed Ms. Neumayr by voice vote.
“She is the first Senate-confirmed chairman since 2014.
“I look forward to hearing about the Council on Environmental Quality’s priorities under your leadership.
“President Trump’s administration has pursued pro-growth and pro-job policies that also protect our nation’s air, water, wildlife, and communities.
“I share President Trump’s belief that we can both grow our economy and protect our environment at the same time.
“The Obama administration largely believed we had to pick one or the other.
“As a result, the American people unnecessarily suffered from a series of overreaching environmental policies and punishing regulations.
“The Trump administration is shifting the federal government away from policies that increase uncertainty, costs, and delays with no corresponding environmental benefits.”
“For example, in March of 2017, President Trump ordered the Council on Environmental Quality to rescind the Obama administration’s greenhouse gas guidance.
“That guidance was unworkable.
“It only served to delay projects and increase uncertainty.
“Withdrawing the guidance was the right decision.
“Over the last two years, the council has improved environmental reviews that delay projects and increase costs.
“Last December, the council published a report based on 1,161 environmental impact statements issued between 2010 and 2017.
“The report found that it took an average of four and a half years to complete an environmental impact statement.
“Four and a half years for Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers to get answers on decisions that affect their lands and their waters.
“Four and a half years before shovels can go in the ground on infrastructure projects that the nation so desperately needs.
“Four and a half years is indefensible.
“To address delays, the Council on Environmental Quality has developed and implemented a policy known as One Federal Decision.
“One Federal Decision establishes a coordinated and timely environmental review process.
“Agencies must develop and follow a permitting timetable, with the goal of completing environmental reviews within two years.
“Agencies will then produce a single environmental document.
“This is a commonsense approach that emphasizes interagency coordination, accountability, and transparency.
“The policy will help agency leaders and their staffs achieve better consistency, communication, and coordination in the federal permitting process.
“The Council on Environmental Quality is also considering changes to its regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, or ‘NEPA.’
“Last summer, the council issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requesting comment on potential updates to its implementing regulations.
“It received over 12,000 comments.
“I believe the council should consider substantial revisions to the NEPA regulations.
“These regulations are over 40 years old and need to be updated.
“It’s difficult to overstate the importance of reforming NEPA regulations.
“For years we’ve talked about the Act as a source for delay and uncertainty.
“We feel its effects nearly everywhere.
“Satisfying NEPA is almost always a prerequisite to government action.
“For my home state of Wyoming, the law plays an integral role in the development of land use and resource management plans that affect coal and natural gas production.
“The Act often delays permits to Wyoming’s farmers, ranchers, and businesses that they need to keep their lands productive and to maintain their livelihoods.
“More broadly, NEPA is at the core of every agency decision to construct, to fund, or to approve roads, bridges, pipelines, dams, and other critical infrastructure.
“By improving NEPA, the Trump administration will reduce delays and end duplicative reviews.
“It also will stop nuisance litigation, improve the usefulness of environmental review, and better incentivize interagency coordination.
“I look forward to hearing more about what the Council on Environmental Quality is currently doing to both protect the environment and support economic growth.
“We can – and must –do both.”