Propane Industry Urges Administration To Complete Review Overhaul

(December 11, 2019) — More than 30 industry groups have called on the White House to finish a regulatory overhaul that would make it easier to clear federal environmental approval for large infrastructure projects such as pipelines and road expansions, Reuters reports. The 33 organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, sent a letter to Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) chair Mary Neumayr asking the agency to “expeditiously proceed” with efforts to “modernize” National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations.

Environmental groups oppose the effort to streamline the process, saying such a move would gut federal protections and transparency for communities affected by major infrastructure projects. The Council on Environmental Quality’s proposed updates to NEPA have been under White House review since earlier this fall. Streamlining the process would hasten approvals for proposals like the Keystone pipeline, which has been held up in federal courts for allegedly not undergoing a rigorous NEPA study.

“CEQ regulations guiding NEPA processes have not been comprehensively updated in nearly four decades,” the industry groups said in their letter. “During this time, securing approval for projects and land management decisions has become hampered by unreasonable costs and long project delays.”

NEPA, enacted in 1970, requires federal agencies to conduct comprehensive studies into the potential environmental impacts of proposed large projects before they can proceed. In 2017, President Donald Trump kick-started an effort to overhaul NEPA for the first time in 40 years. His executive order directed CEQ to speed up the process, and required that one federal agency, instead of multiple agencies, take the lead on a NEPA review. About 80 federal agencies follow NEPA parameters. Environmental groups have raised concerns, saying the NEPA process offers vital protections for communities that will be directly affected by large projects in their backyards, and transparency for communities where projects are being proposed.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, December 9, 2019. Available by subscription.)