By Christy Goldfuss
Stories about the recent House transportation bill will likely focus on what was not in the package: the Keystone XL pipeline and coal ash regulations.
However, environmentalists, right-to-know advocates, and community organizers need to take a close look at the section that discusses “Accelerated Decision Making.” For the first time, but likely not the last, conservative politicians in the House won a major victory in this small section of the bill by including their “streamlining” language, which simply means curtailing the public’s ability to comment on the impacts of transportation projects for communities — including on water, air, and public safety.
The legislation weakens one of our bedrock environmental laws, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which guarantees public participation in reviewing government activities that affect the environment. It was signed into law by President Richard Nixon after passing the Senate by unanimous vote and the House by an overwhelming 372-15 vote.
First, the “Accelerated Decision Making” section of the transportation bill does what has never been done before — fining agencies up to 7% of their fiscal year budget if they do not meet established deadlines for environmental analyses. On the one hand, that means taking ...