Sens. Cruz, Cramer, Lee Introduce Legislation to Modernize Environmental Regulations
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) today introduced the Undoing NEPA's Substantial Harm by Advancing Concepts that Kickstart the Liberation of the Economy (UNSHACKLE) Act, legislation to comprehensively reform and modernize the regulatory process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This bill was previously introduced in October of 2020.
Upon introduction of this bill, Sen. Cruz said:
"This bill empowers hard working Americans by reforming some of the burdensome regulations implemented in NEPA and expedites projects that have been needlessly delayed by bureaucratic red tape. Streamlining the process to complete infrastructure projects will help boost our country's economic recovery and create good paying jobs. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to swiftly take up and pass the UNSHACKLE Act."
Sen. Lee said:
"Environmental planning is essential to sustainable growth, but unfortunately NEPA has become a weapon used by special interests to make much-needed infrastructure and maintenance projects throughout our country prohibitively expensive. The UNSHACKLE Act will reform the NEPA process so that federal agencies, state, and local governments are better empowered to carry out NEPA's original goal, while also making our nation's infrastructure and maintenance project affordable again."
Sen. Cramer added:
"Originally meant to ensure infrastructure and energy projects consider environmental factors before development, the National Environmental Policy Act is a 50 year-old law that often entails burdensome, outdated, and unnecessarily complicated regulations. It should not take the government longer to approve a project than it will for the builder to complete it. Our bill would bring NEPA regulations into the 21st century, empowers state and local governments, provides legal certainty, and places clear limitations on the federal bureaucracy, all of which will help better balance our shared goal of protecting the environment while creating jobs and bolstering America's energy security."
The UNSHACKLE Act combines five NEPA reform bills on agency process, state expansion, legal changes, and data reporting into one comprehensive text. Specifically, the bill:
· Requires agencies to complete the NEPA process for projects requiring an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) within 2 years, and imposes a 1-year deadline for agencies to issue a Categorical Exclusion (CE) or complete the NEPA process for a project requiring an Environmental Assessment (EA). Requires the Office of Management and Budget to reduce the "head of an agency's" budget by 0.5% for each deadline violation.
· Requires a federal agency to approve or deny any permit or authorization for a project within 90 days of completion of the project's NEPA process.
· Mandates only one EIS or one EA for each project.
· Requires agencies to use relevant NEPA analysis and work from prior projects.
· Prohibits agencies from considering alternatives that are not "economically or technically feasible" or outside the agency's statutory authority.
· Permits agencies to use categorical exclusions that have been approved for use by another agency or by an act of Congress.
· Allows federal agencies to adopt state environmental documents prepared under state environmental law such as the EIS or EA for a proposed action.
· Allows federal agencies to select qualified third parties to prepare NEPA documents on the agency's behalf so long as the agency provides oversight of the preparation of the document and independent evaluation.
· Clarifies requirements necessary to receive judicial review for NEPA related claims.
· Sets a uniform 150-day statute of limitations for all NEPA related claims.
· Requires federal courts to fully apply the bond requirements set by rule 65(c) for granting preliminary injunctions and temporary restraining orders.
· Reforms the elements, evidentiary standards, and requirements for a court to consider when granting injunctive relief for a NEPA related claim.
· Reforms the Equal Access to Justice Act by removing "environmental skills" as a "special factor" for courts to award attorney's fees beyond the statutory lodestar rate.
Expanding the State Assignment Program
· Expands the current NEPA assignment program so that all federal agencies are permitted to enter into MOU's with applicable state entities to delegate the state the authority to carry out the NEPA process on the federal agency's behalf.
Read the full text of the bill here.