Something remarkable happened last Thursday. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was officially updated. It has been 40 years since this legislation has been touched. President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1970 with a bunch of other environmental laws. This will make public lands ranching a little easier and perhaps more productive.

With Trump describing the rollbacks as a “top to bottom overhaul,” the changes would help speed up the NEPA review process by eliminating environmental and community considerations before approving projects on federal lands. 

This regulatory change will make the country better. This law is responsible for wasting a lot of time and money over the years. Getting simple infrastructure projects built was a chore. It would take the BLM an average four-and-a-half years to produce an environmental impact statement (EIS).

Everyone in Washington loves to talk about infrastructure investment and creating jobs. NEPA is why roads and new airports don’t get built or even a simple water or corral project on your grazing allotment. NEPA is destructive to progress because it takes too long. Could you imagine adding a new reservoir to the Western water system?

The new regulations will limit EIS to a two-year process and one year for an environmental assessment (EA). The new rules set page limits, simplify multiple agency communications, clarify the definition of federal action, determine alternatives to proposed projects, and use categorical exclusions and EAs when appropriate.

It expands public involvement and improves coordination with states, tribes and localities, as well as ensures meaningful and effective environmental reviews. NEPA applies to a broad range of federal projects that will simplify management of public lands, national parks, water resources.

There is nothing in this regulatory change that is a threat to the environment. It involves Native American tribes and locals in the process. The environmentalists would have you think they are planning new open pit coal mines. But if there are to be open pit coal mines, everyone will have a say. I don’t think we’re going to see new coal mines any time soon.

These changes are extremely helpful to any development on federal lands. It will save government entities, project developers and public land users lots of time and money.

Bob Skinner, President of the Public Lands Council, said in a press release, “Today’s rule recognizes the severe limitations of a policy that had not been updated in more than 40 years. Over the last four decades, ranchers learned and adapted to new needs of wildlife and other rangeland users, but outdated NEPA policy prevented us from responding to many critical situations.”

It was taking forever to get anything done. “In many cases, it takes far longer to obtain a permit than it actually takes to build one of these critical projects, and that should not be acceptable,” Tom Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO, said.

The reaction from environmental groups is expected, but the way they frame it, you would think the sky is falling. The new rules are intended to simply speed up the process because of a few simple timeline adjustments to the regulations.

My favorite environmental group, Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), had interesting comments. Bret Harti, government affairs director, said, “The Trump administration is turning back the clock to when rivers caught fire, our air was unbreathable, and our most beloved wildlife was spiraling towards extinction. The foundational law of the modern environmental movement has been turned into a rubberstamp to enrich corporations, and we doubt the courts will stand for that.”

These regulation changes will be challenged in court because that is what many environmental groups do; it’s their job. What drives me nuts is reading all the national media stories after the announcement; many would have you believe that the world is coming to an end.

These folks see the world from either New York City or Washington, D.C. As far as these folks are concerned those cities are the center of the universe and everything they see is from that intercity point of view.

Today if you want to create controversy, which the national media does, you must use words like “rich,” “corporations,” “people of color,” “poor communities,” “racism,” “social justice” to sell a story. It’s becoming disgusting to see mainstream journalism break so many news reporting rules. It’s all written with attitude, just like I’m doing, but this is commentary, and identified as such.

I expect to see an injunction filed in the next few days in some obscure court that was hand-picked to hear the case from a sympathetic judge. It may take years for these regulations to take hold. They are simple sensible rule changes that will help every American. — PETE CROW

What do you think?

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