Congress Should Reject “Polluters Over People” Measures
Potential Bill(s) to Rubber Stamp Fossil Fuel Permitting Would Upend Bedrock Laws and Silence Communities Who Oppose New Energy Infrastructure
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the heels of President Biden signing historic climate legislation, polluters are reportedly urging Congress to pass legislation that would erode U.S. action on climate and roll back a host of environmental laws.
The measure(s) the House and Senate are expected to take up soon would deprive environmental justice communities of a meaningful voice in permitting for pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, let these dirty energy projects short-circuit safeguards, and radically reduce the timeframe for seeking federal court review when agencies approve energy projects.
Manish Bapna, president and CEO of NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) made the following statement:
“We’ll oppose these polluter-driven efforts at every turn to make sure these bad ideas do not become law.
“What is especially alarming is that these potential measures would throw out half a century of law that gave environmental justice communities a seat at the table. Instead, low-income communities and communities of color need an even greater voice at the table when proposed projects, like the Mountain Valley Pipeline, could harm their neighborhoods, pollute their air and water supply, endanger wildlife and accelerate the climate crisis.
“We won’t let the oil and gas industry marginalize communities with backward-looking measures like this. Instead, it’s time for forward-looking bills like the Environmental Justice for All Act (EJAA), that center communities and advance justice.”
Based on a leaked fact sheet and bill text, the permitting measure reportedly under consideration could apply to a wide range of fossil fuel production, generation, storage or transport projects involving oil and gas, carbon dioxide or minerals.
The measure would fundamentally change existing law and would severely curtail the rights of citizens to challenge fossil fuel projects in court. Traditionally, a party has years to challenge an energy project for violating the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. This bill would bar any challenges to an energy project – environmental, health, tribal, labor or ratepayer – unless made within 5 months of agency approval, dramatically limiting the public’s ability to have a say.
Additionally, the expected legislation would help revive the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a gas project in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, that was illegally approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management under the Trump administration. Those approvals were overturned in federal court and construction is now halted, but the expected legislation would require the Biden administration to quickly re-issue the four permits and would interfere with any review of such decisions by a federal court.
The planned bill will likely also attempt to limit the scope of federal approval of energy projects. It would limit states’ and tribes’ ability to fully protect their own waters from harm, as the Clean Water Act provides.
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.