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Graves Presses White House Environmental Chair on Biden Administration Overreach

U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) highlights the Biden Administration’s flawed implementation of historic law changes designed to streamline permitting for infrastructure. Testimony during the hearing before the House Committee on Natural Resources affirmed the bi-partisan and bi-cameral opposition to the White House’s new environmental review rules.  

The Committee heard testimony from Brenda Mallory, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), for an oversight hearing examining CEQ’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget request and related policy matters.

Rather than using the streamlining provisions Graves negotiated to expedite important traffic, flood protection, ecological resilience, energy, and other important infrastructure projects, the White House issued new rules that perpetuates a bureaucratic and sluggish permitting pace.  

“Under the White House’s flawed interpretation of the new law, states, cities and others may be studying how a road project in Baton Rouge affects the people in Shanghai,” said Congressman Graves. “The new rules under the National Environmental Policy Act include identifying the indirect and global effects of a proposed project. Maybe they don’t understand the difference between national and international, but this was not what we agreed to,” continued Graves.

Proving Graves’ concerns, Chair Mallory admitted that the White House substituted “important” for “significant,” the actual term in the law, thereby creating a lower and illegal standard of impacts — or reasons to not build projects.  

Graves said, “Do you understand that the law actually says ‘significant’ and you changed it to ‘important’? Which I think is a distinguishing factor. The law actually says ‘significant’, so that was the standard. It’s concerning to me there was an intentional effort to avoid the use of the word that was intentionally put in the law to establish a higher standard. That is concerning and I think it was a deviation. In fact, not just the deviation from the four corners of the law, but it was deviation from the clear intent of Congress.”

Graves went on to highlight that what CEQ is implementing as a whole is largely not what was agreed to or enacted in law. Graves said, “significant changes were made by CEQ which is why now there is a bi-partisan, bi-cameral Congressional Review Act resolution that is going to be filed to repeal your regulation because it is not consistent with the law. And whether it’s repealed from the CRA or the courts, it’s incredibly frustrating that we spend all this time negotiating…and through the rulemaking process, [you] just wrote whatever it was that you wanted to write.”  

For the first time ever, Congress provided a major overhaul to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as part of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 (FRA; P.L. 118-5). Changes were designed to expedite environmental reviews, currently taking over seven years for the average road project.