Obama: Economic Stimulus Trumps Environmental Laws

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Randy Barrett (rbarrett@publicintegrity.org) (202) 481-1256
or Steve Carpinelli (scarpinelli@publicintegrity.org) (202) 481-1225

Obama: Economic Stimulus Trumps Environmental Laws

WASHINGTON - In the name of job creation and clean energy, the Obama administration has doled out billions of dollars in stimulus money to some of the nation's most egregious polluters and granted them sweeping exemptions from the most basic form of environmental oversight, a new Center for Public Integrity investigation finds.

The administration has awarded more than 179,000 "categorical exclusions" to stimulus projects funded by federal agencies, freeing those projects from review under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. Coal-burning utilities like Westar Energy and Duke Energy, chemical manufacturer DuPont, and ethanol maker Didion Milling are among the firms with histories of serious environmental violations that have won blanket NEPA exemptions.

Documents obtained by the Center show the administration has devised a speedy review process that relies on voluntary disclosures by companies to determine whether stimulus projects pose environmental harm. Corporate polluters often omitted mention of health, safety, and environmental violations from their applications. In fact, administration officials told the Center they chose to ignore companies' environmental compliance records in making grant decisions and issuing NEPA exemptions, saying they considered such information irrelevant.

This approach to stimulus projects has left the Obama administration at odds with its usual allies in the green movement. Some environmental advocates told the Center the goals of creating a clean energy economy and more jobs don't outweigh the risks of giving money to and foregoing supervision of repeat violators of anti-pollution laws.

Top-level administration officials who granted the exclusions under NEPA defend their decisions.  They argue that the exemptions were essential to accelerate more than $30 billion in stimulus-funded clean energy projects, allocated by the Energy Department, which they say have already created 35,000 jobs.

Read and link to the Center story, "Big Polluters Freed from Environmental Oversight by Stimulus."

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The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern. The Center is non-partisan and non-advocacy. We are committed to transparent and comprehensive reporting both in the United States and around the world.

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