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July 12, 2024

Schweikert proposes reforms to environmental regulatory process

3 min read

An Arizona congressman wants to remove some of the environmental red tape in Washington. 

U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, R-Arizona, introduced two bills focused on reforming the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes on July 1, the NEPA State Assignment Expansion Act, and the NEPA Accountability and Enforcement Act, to remove unnecessary barriers from clean energy projects. 

NEPA, signed into law on Jan. 1, 1970, requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions before making decisions.

The NEPA State Assignment Expansion Act would allow federal agencies to delegate NEPA review authority to relevant state entities under the agency’s supervision. 

The NEPA Accountability and Enforcement Act would require federal agencies to complete the NEPA process in two years for proposed projects that need an Environmental Impact Survey (EIS) and impose a one-year deadline for agencies to issue a “Categorical Exclusion” (CE) and complete the NEPA process for projects with an environmental assessment, with an overall shot clock of three years for an agency to complete the NEPA process. It would also require agencies to approve or deny permits within 90 days of completing the NEPA process.

Schweikert stated the importance of “streamlining our regulatory processes for each investment we are making.”

He said that too many policy proposals lead to more government roadblocks to innovation and clean energy technology. 

“I am proud to introduce both of these important pieces of legislation to revolutionize what has evolved to become a burdensome and bureaucratic policy, and help quickly move important projects forward,” Schweikert said in a statement. 

Bill co-sponsors include Reps. Bill Posey, R-Florida, Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, David Valadao, R-California, Ted Budd, R-North Carolina, Ralph Norman, R-South Carolina, and Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado.

Arizona is one of seven states with a NEPA Assignment agreement in place with the Department of Transportation. 

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, expressed his support for ending inessential government involvement in construction. 

“The best way to boost American infrastructure is to cut down on needless bureaucratic complexity,” Lee said. “Implementing a reasonable time limit and empowering state officials to carry out NEPA will provide certainty and improve the process.” 

Lee has sponsored similar bills in previous years.

Rich Powell, executive director of ClearPath Action, said that since new clean energy projects and reductions to carbon dioxide emissions are reliant on permits, Schweikert’s proposed decreases to permit timelines will enable “clean energy developers to more quickly deploy their technologies, and ensure all communities benefit from clean energy projects.”

“As NEPA approval timelines have only gotten longer, I am happy to see more Congressional focus on remedying this and improving the incentives to invest in the United States,” Philip Rossetti, Senior Fellow for Energy & Environment at the R Street Institute, said. 

The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) described both NEPA reform bills as “much needed reforms to the archaic and bureaucratic National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that would deliver federal public works projects on time.” 

NSSGA supports the bills’ provisions to remove “duplicative environmental reviews and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure investments.”

They said the bills would ensure that projects are completed in a quick, economical, and environmentally friendly manner. 

“Rep. Schweikert’s State Assignment Expansion Act and NEPA Accountability and Enforcement Act bills would ensure federal, state and local stakeholders can leverage these federal funds and deliver meaningful public works projects on time and on budget, without sacrificing environmental protections.”

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