Ranking Member Grijalva Leads 79-Member Letter to President Biden, Democratic Leadership Opposing Environmental Rollbacks in Must-Pass Legislation

Washington, D.C. – House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today sent a letter signed by a total of 79 Democrats, including 11 committee ranking members, to President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urging them to oppose environmental rollbacks—misleadingly called “permitting reform”—in any must-pass legislation.

Co-leads on the letter include Reps. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Sean Casten (D-Ill.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.), and Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.).

CLICK HERE for the full letter.

Earlier this year, House Republicans passed H.R. 1, fittingly dubbed the Polluters Over People Act, which includes a longstanding polluting industry request to gut bedrock environmental laws, namely the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other extreme Republicans are now pushing to include these same provisions in must-pass debt ceiling legislation.

In their letter, the lawmakers warn against the harm that weakening NEPA would inflict on Americans:

“Under the guise of “permitting reform,” these extreme, ideological attacks on NEPA would eliminate requirements to consider climate change and pollution impacts, cut public input opportunities, and limit judicial review. To protect American communities and our environment from undue harm, we strongly urge you to oppose ongoing attempts to attach H.R. 1 or any other extreme proposals that gut our bedrock environmental and public health laws to must-pass legislation.”

The lawmakers also point out that gutting NEPA is not a real solution for expediting the buildout of energy infrastructure, as it does not address the actual reasons for project delays:

“Experts and federal agency leadership have consistently identified insufficient staffing and agency capacity as the most significant cause of permitting delays outside of delays caused by permit applicants themselves, which are by far the most common cause of project delay. For example, last month, Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning told Congress that staff shortages are the biggest hurdle to speedy energy project permitting.”

The authors note that, to address this issue, Democrats secured more than $1 billion in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act to staff permitting offices in federal agencies. Once fully implemented, that funding is expected to drastically shrink environmental review timelines.

To guide future negotiations around clean energy and permitting reform, the 79-member letter outlines four major principles:

  • The primary focus of permitting reform must be properly implementing existing laws – not gutting or changing our core environmental laws and protections.
  • Federal permitting and environmental review offices must be fully funded and staffed.
  • Administrative or legislative action to facilitate the rapid buildout of new electricity transmission infrastructure is needed.
  • Efforts to hold must-pass legislation hostage with extreme proposals must be rejected.

Of note, the Biden-Harris administration has already unleashed over $470 billion in manufacturing and clean energy investments since President Biden took office, providing ample, predictable funding for new projects. 

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Lindsay Gressard