Your Congress in Action: Vol. 6

06/11/2020 3:24 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. This information is sourced from the Coalition for American Heritage, news articles, and more. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

  • President Trump issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to waive environmental regulations on infrastructure because of the economic emergency caused by the pandemic. NHPA is not specifically mentioned in the order. ACRA has issued a statement on the Executive Order that includes how you can help now. The Coalition for American Heritage is working with the environmental community as the situation continues to unfold.
  • The House Judiciary Committee is asking the Trump administration to turn over a list of deregulatory actions taken to bolster the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, arguing the White House has been inappropriately fast-tracking priorities unrelated to addressing the virus.
  • The Coalition and other preservation organizations is continuing to facilitate discussions on CEQ’s proposed changes to the regulations governing NEPA implementation, including meeting with federal agencies.
  • The Trump administration finalized a rule for the Clean Water Act that will set a one-year deadline for states and tribes to authorize or dismiss proposed energy projects and other developments that could pollute waterways, effectively curtailing the rights of the public and those entities to protest pipelines, hydroelectric dams, industrial plants and other projects. The EPA's move overturns how the country has applied a section of the Clean Water Act for nearly 50 years and has been hailed by the energy industry and lamented by environmental groups.
  • President Trump on Friday announced that he will reopen the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of Massachusetts for commercial fishing. This action is seen as a parallel to his attempt to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante monuments. The Conservation Law Foundation has already announced plans for a lawsuit.
  • The Great American Outdoors Act is scheduled for a vote in the Senate. Passage of the bill could boost Republican chances of maintaining their majority because the sponsors, Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), are vulnerable. However, some Republican senators are expressing qualms about the legislation. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is concerned that the bill could undercut Alabama’s share of revenue from offshore drilling, money vital for the Gulf’s coastline preservation and restoration. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has similar concerns and will attempt to insert language into the bill to increase the amount of offshore revenue that Gulf Coast states receive to address coastal resiliency and restoration efforts.
  • Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is authorizing William Perry Pendley and David Vela to perform the duties of acting directors of BLM and NPS, respectively, using the secretary's "succession" of duties authority. Pendley and Vela will now be able to perform the duties of acting director indefinitely. In addition to Pendley and Vela, Bernhardt is also using his succession powers to keep Casey Hammond as acting Interior assistant secretary for land and minerals management, Lanny Erdos as acting director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, and Jerold Gidner as special trustee for American Indians. 
  • An article in the Hill revealed that BLM needs to replace more than 100 staffers who chose to leave the agency rather than relocate to Colorado.
  • The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee will hold its first virtual hearing this week. Up until now, the committee has been hosting public forums. On-line hearings will enable them to complete legislative business instead of just receiving testimony.
  • The House Democratic transportation bill does not appear to contain any language that would be harmful in terms of lessening standards or shortening review windows in regards to NEPA or NHPA. Most references to NEPA and environmental reviews are in the context of program funding to provide for environmental reviews, types of projects that must satisfy NEPA requirements in order to be eligible for funding, etc. There are no references to NHPA or 4(f). 
    • There is a provision that allows for a Surface Transportation Board to mediate in rail rights-of-way disputes. It is within the Amtrak section of the bill and in the context of improving existing rail access and creating new passenger railways. There is also a section about non-emergency waivers, but it appears to be limited to train safety measures.

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