Statement before the 2020 Council on Environmental Quality

February 25, 2020

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

RE: Docket No. CEQ-2019-0003

RE: Executive Order 13807

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today regarding the Council on Environmental Quality’s proposed rule to update the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

My name is Kaitlin Schmidtke and I am the Director of Policy and Campaigns for Consumer Energy Alliance, the leading consumer energy advocate in the nation. On behalf of CEA’s nearly 300 member organizations that represent a cross-section of industries, including Farm Bureaus, Labor, small businesses, and local Chambers of Commerce, all of whom will benefit the most from these changes. CEA strongly supports alternative and renewable energy, just as we support conventional energy. We believe that we need all energy sources to help us achieve both our economic and environmental goals.

CEA advocates for families, seniors, and small businesses across our growing nation. Since NEPA was last updated in the late 1970s, the United States population has grown by over a hundred million people [1], we have gone through seven presidential administrations, the Internet and iPhone were invented, and technology is now helping us harness more productivity across more industries than ever before. What has not changed since 1978 is NEPA.

I was raised in Texas, where it is hard to keep up with the surging population growth and the demands that it brings to our infrastructure. Roads and bridges are in vast need of improvement and growth to remain competitive, the ports need to be dredged and widened, and energy projects need to expand to meet the needs of all Texans.

As American lives move quicker and quicker, it is important that our critical infrastructure is able to modernize and move just as fast as we do. American infrastructure includes roads, bridges, energy, airports, and water projects that are becoming more costly and harder to complete given burdensome and outdated regulations.

Anti-development groups will always say that traditional energy will be the biggest winner, but that’s just not true. With new, streamlined regulations, the biggest winners will be our communities and our wind and solar developers who rely on consistent processes that meet the rapid deployment schedules and renewable integration states across the nation are demanding – and on which political candidates are campaigning.

The proposed updates to NEPA will modernize our regulatory process and create certainty in the place of delay while still protecting the environment during the implementation of projects. The new guidelines provide clear timelines for environmental review that ensure a thorough, yet prompt process.

We must not equate faster and more predictable with less thorough. The proposed rules also ensure the government is seeking community input and organizational guidance early in the permitting process, so the reviewing agency can consider scientific information, alternatives, and other useful information from the public in the early stages of the process to avoid project delays caused by excessive legal actions that arise following a decision.

This is reform to a process, not gutting regulations. People in communities across the nation should embrace the CEQ’s reforms as something that will bring more transparency and certainty. CEA will continue to support these reforms and hope the committee and its chairwoman see this is the right course of action.

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