New Mexico fights President’s move to revise NEPA

While some Oklahomans in congress side with the President and his efforts to revise the National Environmental Policy Act, the state of New Mexico has come out against those efforts.

New Mexico leaders have joined opposition to the administration’s plans to change the federal law that requires environmental studies be conducting during the construction of oil and gas facilities. Opponents contend the revision is putting the interests of the fossil fuel industry ahead of protecting the environment according to the Carlsbad Current Argus.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was first signed into law in 1970 and was used to require environmental impact statements (EIS) and other studies be conducted for certain projects on federal land.

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) argued the law had not been updated since it first went into effect and must be “modernized” to speed up projects such as oil and gas drilling facilities.

The changes would allow federal agencies discretion in requiring an EIS for projects and exempt some projects from NEPA requirements if they contradicted other regulations.

Time limits would also be established for EIS’ and other environmental documents, requiring them to be complete by two years after the application was filed.

“This proposed rule would modernize and clarify the regulations to facilitate more efficient, effective, and timely NEPA reviews by Federal agencies in connection with proposals for agency action,” read the CEQ’s notice.

New Mexico’s primary oil and gas regulatory agency the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) submitted comments in opposition to the CEQ earlier this month, alleging the changes would strip regulatory agencies of methods to protect the environment amid industrial development.

“Simply put, the CEQ’s proposed changes to NEPA regulations would eliminate basic environmental protections,” said Sarah Cottrel Propst, EMNRD cabinet secretary. “These changes are so extensive that they are contrary to NEPA’s purpose and would leave our natural resources vulnerable.”

 New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the revisions were part of a pattern by the Trump administration to reduce regulations at the expense of public and environmental health.

Source: Carlsbad Current Argus