RDC comments on NEPA revisions, Docket ID: CEQ-2019-0003

March 10, 2020

The Honorable Mary Neumayr, Chairman
Council on Environmental Quality
730 Jackson Place, NW
Washington, DC 20503

Submitted via regulations.gov/docket?D=CEQ-2019-0003 

RE: Update to the Regulations Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act

Dear Chairman Neumayr:

The Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc. (RDC) is writing in response to the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) request for comments on proposed revisions to the regulations for implementing the procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Docket ID: CEQ-2019-0003.

RDC is an Alaskan business association comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s fishing, forestry, mining, oil and gas, and tourism industries. RDC’s membership includes Alaska Native corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC’s purpose is to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

RDC appreciates the CEQ’s efforts to streamline the NEPA review process, reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens, and clarify longstanding CEQ regulations. Further, as stated by the CEQ, it has issued numerous guidance documents but has amended its regulations substantively only once.

It is a policy of RDC to advocate for predictable, timely, and efficient state and federal permitting processes based on sound science and economic feasibility. RDC believes the proposed rule sets forth process and content requirements to guide the development, amendment, and revision of NEPA. RDC members view this as an excellent opportunity to fix the broken or often-misused NEPA process, using a federally streamlined, science-based process.

With regard to the current opportunity to comment, please consider the following points:

RDC supports restrictions to ensure that Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) are completed over reasonable timeframes. Environmental lawsuits continue to threaten the responsible development of Alaska’s natural resources. At the forefront of these lawsuits are cases in which the litigants use NEPA challenges as a vehicle for improperly attempting to delay or impede projects with which they have policy disagreements.

RDC supports shorter EIS documents, which have been historically too lengthy, and are often hard to review, particularly by members of the public.

RDC supports reforms to limit the number of issues under consideration in an EIS. The costs of completing the NEPA process along with the prevalence of environmental lawsuits are often prohibitive for the nation’s countless small businesses and landowners, especially in Alaska. Few federal laws have more impact on resource development in Alaska than the EIS process required by NEPA.

Lastly, RDC supports the changes to allow Alaska Native corporations (ANCs) to participate in the EIS process as cooperating agencies. ANCs are some of the largest landowners in Alaska and should be at the table on EISs affecting their lands.

RDC is aligned with ongoing federal efforts to streamline and improve decision-making. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed NEPA revisions.

Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.