Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Obama overhauls process for offsetting environmental harm

President Obama today ordered five federal agencies to streamline regulations for offsetting environmental harm and to promote independent mitigation efforts. The memorandum -- sent to the secretaries of Defense, Interior and Agriculture and the administrators of U.S. EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- establishes for the first time a "net benefit goal" for natural resource use. At minimum, the memo calls for no net loss of land, water, wildlife and other ecological resources from federal actions or permitting. The directive will affect everything from government construction projects to oil and gas production on public lands. It does not, however, apply to "military testing, training, and readiness activities," the memo says. To reach their new net-benefit goal, Obama said the agencies should "adopt a clear and consistent approach for avoidance and minimization of, and compensatory mitigation for, the impacts of their activities and the projects they approve." The agencies, he said, should also use landscape- or watershed-scale planning to take the full impacts of their decisions into account and to pick the best spots for mitigation. Going forward, the president directed the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service to develop and implement additional manual and handbook guidance on mitigation within 180 days. Those policies should be finalized within two years. At Interior, the Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service each have a year to finalize their mitigation policies...more

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