The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Paulo Lopes,

House Republican Bill Would Upend Bedrock Environmental Review Law

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on legislation introduced by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) that would curtail environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The BUILDER Act of 2023 would dramatically limit the public’s ability to provide input on fossil fuel projects and other destructive developments that would harm the communities most burdened by pollution, while allowing corporate polluters to effectively rubberstamp the projects they’re proposing.

“It’s appalling that Rep. Graves and House Republicans are pushing to dismantle our bedrock environmental and public health safeguards during the East Palestine disaster,” said Paulo Lopes, a senior policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ll see more environmental catastrophes in communities across the country if Republicans gut these protections. Congress should utterly reject this unprecedented effort to turn NEPA into a meaningless rubber stamp for polluters.”

The BUILDER Act would drastically limit environmental review to just projects that are under the “substantial” control and responsibility of the federal government. That means oil and gas pipelines and other energy projects would be completely exempt from NEPA.

Rep. Graves’ legislation would limit judicial review by requiring any challenge to a project be filed within 120 days. The bill would also prevent all reviews when an agency uses “categorical exclusions” to skip the NEPA process. While categorical exclusions can be used properly for routine projects that do not harm the environment, agencies use them improperly to avoid serious review under NEPA.

Most famously, the Department of the Interior approved the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform under a categorical exclusion, leading to the 2010 catastrophe. A mining operation near Everglades National Park was also approved with a categorical exclusion, and a disaster resulted in the benzene contamination of Miami’s drinking water.

“It’s shameful that Rep. Graves is trying to silence communities of color and poor communities in places like Louisiana’s Cancer Alley,” said Lopes. “Republicans are again showing no regard for the suffering of people they’re supposed to represent. Instead, they’re only looking out for the bottom lines of special interest polluters.”

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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