Trump, House Republicans Fail to Deliver Infrastructure Package, Scapegoat Environmental Review Instead

Washington, D.C. – In an attempt to divert attention away from their inability to craft and advance legislation that would provide much needed funding to repair our country’s crumbling infrastructure, House Republicans are holding a hearing this morning to blame the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for their failures. NEPA is a bedrock conservation law that requires federal agencies to consider potential environmental impacts of projects they undertake or permit. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, more than 95 percent of all NEPA reviews are completed within a matter of days, and only the most complex and potentially destructive projects accounting for less than one percent of all reviews must receive a full Environmental Impact Statement.

Ahead of the hearing, Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) points out that NEPA is an important environmental justice statute that gives all Americans a voice in matters where the federal government could allow pollution of communities’ air, water or land.

“It’s been almost a year since Trump took office but he and his cheerleaders in the House don’t have a single accomplishment to show for it, so they’ve turned to attacking the very laws and regulations that protect American communities from being treated like trash dumps by big business and government agencies,” Grijalva said. “We need a strong NEPA to protect public health and environmental quality. What we don’t need is another hearing on myths that have been debunked over and over again.”

This hearing comes on the heels of Trump’s August executive order on weakening environmental review of infrastructure projects – so far his only answer for American families and businesses after promising to deliver a $1 trillion infrastructure package.

The Democratic witness is Dinah Bear, an attorney and NEPA expert who served as General Counsel at the White House Council on Environmental Quality under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

One of the Republican witnesses is Philip K. Howard, author of a 2015 report on infrastructure permitting that makes numerous false claims about NEPA, many of which were exposed in a recent brief by the Center for American Progress. Some of the “highlights” from Mr. Howard’s testimony include:

  • A baseless claim that labor unions engage in a practice called “greenmail” whereby they threaten to use environmental lawsuits as leverage in negotiations with project proponents.
  • An assertion that less than four percent of the funding for transportation projects in the 2009 stimulus package was spent within five years, and an implication that environmental review was to blame, when in reality nearly two thirds of such funds were spent during that short period.
  • Complaints about the NEPA review for the new Mario Cuomo Bridge over the Hudson River in New York, despite the fact that the review was completed in less than one year.

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