Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Denver takes center stage in a national debate over updating environmental policies

Denver took the national spotlight Tuesday when the Council on Environmental Quality held public hearings to discuss a Trump administration proposal. On January 9, President Trump proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, otherwise known as NEPA. The policy, which was first created in 1970, requires federal agencies to prepare environmental impact statements for everything from highway construction to oil and gas development on federal lands to grazing rights for ranchers. The proposed changes would narrow the scope and timing of NEPA, something proponents hope will cut through red tape on major projects. However, environmentalists oppose the idea, saying the changes would hurt the environment and limit the public’s right to speak out against certain projects. During a press conference Monday, groups advocating for the change pointed to the I-70 expansion project as an example for how projects can be negatively affected by NEPA. “The current I-70 project right through the heart of Denver is really a poster child for the need to update the NEPA process,” said Matt Gerard from the Plenary group, an investment company. “The permit process for that project took over 13 years and it ended up with a document that was almost 16,000 pages in length.” Gerard said that along with more than 200 community meetings that took place to discuss the changes, it required more than 148 mitigation requirements that cost $58 million for taxpayers. Some of the proposed changes to NEPA would limit the scope of what the environmental impact assessments would consider. Cumulative impacts or indirect impacts would no longer be considered in those assessments under the proposal. Gerard believes updating NEPA will cut down on the amount of time it takes to approve projects...MORE

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