At Hearing, Vice RM Kamlager-Dove Praises CEQ Chair Mallory for Acting on Climate, Environmental Justice

WASHINGTON – At today’s full committee hearing titled, Examining the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request and Related Policy Matters, CEQ recently finalized its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Phase II regulations, which take a positive step in requiring agencies to consider the climate and environmental justice impacts of major federal actions, while also undoing harmful Trump-era changes that undermined NEPA’s environmental review process.

Republicans repeatedly blame NEPA for permitting delays, but experts have consistently cited lack of agency staff and resources, not the statute itself, as a primary cause of delay at the federal level. To address this issue, Democrats secured more than $1 billion for agency permitting offices through the Inflation Reduction Act.

In fact, most permitting delays are caused by the project applicants themselves; in nine of the last ten years, the Bureau of Land Management spent more time waiting for oil and gas operators to submit information than it spent reviewing permit applications. Further, NEPA is not major source of litigation; only one out of every 450 NEPA reviews is ever challenged in court.

Vice Ranking Member Kamlager-Dove Opening Statement (as delivered)

Thank you, Chairman. And thank you very much, Chairwoman, for being here with us today.

I do want to give you a bit of forewarning — although I’m guessing you’re already aware — that today’s hearing is likely to feature a range of hyperbole and theatrics from my colleagues across the aisle that is especially spectacular, even for them.

After all, the Council on Environmental Quality, which you lead, is responsible for implementing what I’ve come to find out during my time on this Committee is the majority’s public enemy number one — the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, a Nixon legacy, no doubt.

If you want any assurance of that fact, you need not look any further than the first few months of the 118th Congress. My majority colleagues wasted no time in immediately rolling out bills, including their H.R. 1, the Polluters Over People Act, intended to gut NEPA’s most fundamental and sacred provisions.

As a new member of Congress at the time, I couldn’t help but wonder what was behind this political vendetta.

From where I stand, NEPA is not just one of the most important protections we have for our environment — it is absolutely essential to this country’s pursuit of equity and justice.

For decades, low-income communities, communities of color, and tribal communities have been purposely and relentlessly targeted by polluting industries as the preferred siting location for their dirtiest messes.

And let’s be clear: It’s not because these communities didn’t care or didn’t voice their opposition loud and clear. They did. They were simply pushed aside, silenced, or ignored.

But with NEPA, their voices must be heard. NEPA enshrined into law the American people’s right to weigh in on major federal projects or permit decisions. And when unlawful permit decisions or otherwise dangerous projects are put in place, NEPA gives communities the right to challenge them through judicial review.

And as the climate crisis impacts the same overburdened communities first and worst, there is no question that NEPA is as important, if not more, than it has ever been.

That’s why I am so grateful for your leadership, Chair Mallory. When you took the helm at CEQ, you inherited a suite of extreme Trump-era NEPA rollbacks that willfully ignored both the climate crisis and the cumulative impacts of multiple sources of pollution, putting American families directly in harm’s way.

But the Council’s recently finalized Phase II NEPA regulations have turned the page on these pro-polluter priorities. Under the Biden administration, CEQ is putting climate, communities, and environmental justice back into focus for a future that serves all Americans, not just those lucky enough to afford to live where polluters won’t go.

But of course, as we’ll see today, not everyone is happy with the change.

My colleagues across the aisle have made a veritable art out of scheming and designing giveaways for their polluting industry friends, namely Big Oil.

Or, in the case of the former president, they’re simply asking Big Oil to draft the giveaways for them.

So, when you have an administration like this one, that is committed to protecting the American people, rather than bending over backwards to prop up the already record-breaking profits of Big Oil, we can fully expect the GOP to come out with their proverbial guns blazing. Although on this committee, we can actually bring real guns.

We’ll likely hear their usual protests about high energy prices. Even though, I dare say, these arguments fall a little flat in light of the recent complaint from the Federal Trade Commission showing how Big Oil colluded with OPEC to raise energy prices.

We may hear about permitting delays, even though not a single one of my Republican colleagues voted with Democrats to pass more than one billion in funding through the Inflation Reduction Act to address staff capacity and resources in permitting offices. Experts have repeatedly identified insufficient staff capacity, not NEPA itself, as a top reason for permitting delays.

Basically, we’ll hear a lot. And probably at loud volumes. So, I want to commend you in advance, Chairwoman. Not just for the patience you will likely need to employ today, but for your commitment to carrying out the Council’s mandate to deliver clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment for all Americans, no matter how well-funded the opposition may be.

Thank you and I yield back.

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