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Polis administration pushes back on Trump bid to roll back NEPA

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February 11, 2020, 12:17 pm

Gov. Jared Polis and members of the Polis administration on Tuesday released the following statement ahead of a federal field hearing in Denver (pdf) about the Trump administration’s attempt to roll back the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a bedrock federal environmental law.

Gov. Jared Polis
Gov. Jared Polis

“While I would strongly support reasonable NEPA reforms that speed up construction permits and reduce red tape, it is troubling to see the White House instead propose changes that would undermine the fundamental purposes of the law and increase the danger of disasters including pipeline leaks and explosions,” said Governor Polis. “Maintaining the federal role as custodians of our environment – to prevent things like costly pipeline spills and contamination – is critical to ensure we protect our state’s most precious environmental resources that support our economy and our way of life.”

Shoshana Lew, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation is set to testify at the hearing today. 

“When we look to the history of transportation in America, there are countless places where infrastructure fundamentally changed the shape of communities — be it through roads that connected or disconnected neighborhoods; arterials that bifurcated or circulated urban cores; or beautiful mountain highways that put vacation destinations on the map,” said Director Lew. “Transportation infrastructure can grow our economy, connect, and improve peoples’ lives in so many ways, but it can also carry costs — to the natural landscape, to neighborhoods, or to the air that we breathe. For half a century, NEPA has provided a vital framework for assessing those trade-offs.” 

“We support reasonable modernization of the National Environmental Policy Act, but these proposed changes fundamentally undermine the law by willfully blinding agencies to the effects of their actions. They will prevent federal agencies from considering the full consequences of their actions and threaten the quality of Colorado’s air, water and soil.  Federal agencies will not adequately consider how federal decisions affect ground-level ozone, greenhouse gases and water pollution,” said John Putnam, director of Environmental Operations at the Department of Public Health and Environment.

Putnam and Colorado Energy Office Executive Director Will Toor will also testify at today’s hearing.

“Colorado has adopted science-based emissions targets designed to align our state with the scale and pace of reductions needed to mitigate the worst of climate impacts,” said Colorado Energy Office Executive Director Will Toor. “We are working with businesses and communities across the state to reduce emissions while seizing the economic benefits and consumer cost savings of clean, zero-emissions electricity. The proposed changes to NEPA essentially eliminate all consideration of climate impacts in federal decision-making and will put us at risk for greater harm to our health, economy, iconic landscapes and quality of life.

Colorado Department of Natural Resources executive director Dan Gibbs also weighed in. 

“Since its passage in 1970, NEPA has allowed the State and citizens of Colorado to play informed, meaningful roles in federal decision-making and resulted in better federal projects though consideration of their broader impacts on Colorado’s natural resources and environment,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “I am concerned that a number of the modifications proposed by the Council on Environmental Quality will undermine the fundamental aspects of NEPA that have made it so successful and result in significant negative impacts to our state’s land, water, wildlife and natural resources.”

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