New Mexico’s only Republican in Congress hopes to change how oil and gas operations are allowed, after similar efforts by US Senate Democrats appeared to stall when they were removed from a continuing resolution bill (CR) adopted to avoid a government shutdown.
U.S. Representative Yvette Herrell (R-NM) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would set a two-year deadline for environmental analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that is required for oil wells and gas and other facilities.
It was intended to “streamline” federal project reviews, Herrell said, which she says can be excessively lengthy.
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Wait times amid federal environmental reviews are likely to hamper oil and gas production, said Herrell, the largest industry in its southern second congressional district and the main driver of New York’s economy. Mexico – typically accounting for one-third of the state’s annual budget.
“For too long, projects that will improve the lives of my constituents — and in some cases save their lives — have been unnecessarily delayed by federal bureaucracy,” Herrell said.
She said restricting the length of exams would increase regulatory certainty for companies planning to do business in New Mexico.
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“By placing an explicit timeline for NEPA reviews, New Mexico businesses that must go through the NEPA process will have confidence that they must embark on projects that improve the lives of New Mexicans,” said Herrel.
US Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR), who is a top member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said ‘extremist’ environmental groups have ‘hijacked’ the NEPA process to slow projects and hinder production energy, a problem that Herrell’s bill will seek to reverse. .
“It is unacceptable that Democrats have allowed extremist groups to hijack NEPA to the point that it is now being used as a weapon against critical energy infrastructure,” he said in a statement. “MP Herrell’s legislation will provide certainty for project developers without circumventing the permitting process.
“We need a comprehensive energy approach to lower costs for American families and this legislation is a key part of those solutions.”
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The bill has been backed by oil and gas industry executives who have argued that the review process needs to be expedited so that energy companies can continue to supply home fuel to American consumers.
“Two years is plenty of time to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act while moving projects forward and getting America back to work,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance.
Another permit reform effort proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) would also have set a two-year maximum for environmental reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and would require projects to be approved within 180 days of the completion of the Feedback.
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It would also establish a 150-day statute of limitations for permits, barring legal challenges to permits after that time, but was removed from CR language ahead of Congress’s vote on the measure on Tuesday.
But Sgamma was troubled by language in Manchin’s bill that would require the president to prioritize 25 infrastructure projects across the country, subjecting the work, she said, to political influence.
“All pipelines and other infrastructure projects should have a rational and timely NEPA, not just 25 politically favored projects chosen by the White House,” Sgamma said.
“While I can understand that Senator Manchin has tried to reduce the time it takes to complete environmental analyzes so that infrastructure and energy projects can move forward, the wording of the bill is a bureaucratic gibberish which I think could have actually bogged down the projects further.”
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But environmental groups have argued that the tight timeline for reviews of infrastructure projects could limit public participation and the voices of affected communities.
Erick Schlenker-Goodrich of the Western Environmental Law Center said efforts to speed up permitting only benefit oil and gas companies and could worsen the effects of pollution and climate change.
He said Congress should instead pass environmental legislation like the Environmental Justice for All Act introduced last year by U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) which, if passed, would require the federal government to take more into account the environmental impacts on communities of color.
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“Successful climate action requires that we embrace and align two key goals: building clean, renewable energy and the imperative to ensure environmental justice for frontline and Indigenous communities,” Schlenker-Goodrich said.
He said the government should move away from fossil fuels and switch to cleaner energy sources like wind and solar power.
“To open new doors to a prosperous, just, and equitable future in renewable energy, we urge Congress to support fair and meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders and pass the Environmental Justice for All Act,” said Schlenker-Goodrich.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.