Dec 29, 2008 /

McMorris Releases Final Report on NEPA

 

(Washington, D.C.)  Congresswoman Cathy McMorris (WA-05) announced that the Task Force on Improving and Strengthening the National Environmental Policy Act has released its final report. Based on findings and testimony given to the Task Force at seven field hearings across the country, a final report was compiled that includes 20 recommendations on how to strengthen the NEPA process.

“This report demonstrates that we need to improve NEPA, yet in doing so, must keep the original intent of the law,” said McMorris. “Congress designed NEPA to make sure we understood the environmental impacts of major projects, that we “look before we leap.” However after 35 years there is room for improvement, and it is time that we put common sense back into environmental decision making.”

The final report includes 20 recommendations in 9 subcategories:

  1. Addressing delays in the process
  2. Enhancing public participations
  3. Better involvement for local, state, and tribal stakeholders
  4. Addressing litigation issues
  5. Clarifying alternative analysis under NEPA
  6. Better federal agency coordination
  7. Additional authority for the Council on Environmental Quality
  8. Clarifying the mean of “cumulative impacts”
  9. Studies

“The path to modernizing NEPA through Congressional action is a lengthy process and must be done at the correct time,” said McMorris. “Before I introduce legislation to improve NEPA, we must continue to increase awareness and educate people on the impact of NEPA on their daily lives. I am also working to build coalitions, and have a bipartisan approach to solutions.”

In Eastern Washington, there are numerous projects, companies and industries that have faced delays and challenges because of NEPA.

  • The ski resort 49 Degrees North had to wait ten years to approve a new chair lift because of the delays associated with NEPA compliance.
  • Renovation of the Fox Theater in downtown Spokane falls under NEPA and they had to complete a “NEPA checklist” as part of the renovation process.
  • The expansion of the Columbia Basin Project, crucial for providing irrigation to farmers, will face NEPA. Our farmers could lose valuable crops due to lack of irrigation while waiting for the NEPA process to be completed.
  • The Buckhorn Mine Project is extremely important to the economy of Okanogan County. Yet the mining industry, including this project, has experienced tremendous delays associated with NEPA. Experts from the industry testified that they sometimes experience up to 20 years of permitting analysis. Buckhorn is still awaiting an Environmental Impact Statement to move forward and Okanogan and Ferry Counties are awaiting this opportunity for economic development.
  • Recent forest fires this summer highlight the need to have active forest management plans in place to prevent widespread damage. The Forest industry testified that NEPA is hurting our ability to keep forests healthy, and homes have been burned to the ground partly because forest management plans were tied up in NEPA litigation.
  • Important transportation projects throughout the state are also delayed by NEPA. Washington State Transportation Director Doug MacDonald testified at a hearing in Spokane that Environmental Impact Statements are now over 2,000 pages long and become so complicated that no one can read them.