2004 Scorecard Vote
Few conservation measures have had greater or more lasting effect than the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Signed into law by President Nixon in 1969, NEPA mandates public participation in important environmental decisions and requires federal agencies to undertake extensive environmental reviews of any projects that could have an impact on natural resources.
The Bush Administration and its Congressional allies have been working to undercut and scale back NEPA in a number of different contexts including transportation planning and forest management. H.R. 4513, introduced by Representative Richard Pombo (R-CA), constituted a more roundabout assault. The bill would streamline licensing and siting for alternative energy projects on federal lands by abrogating NEPA provisions that require federal agencies to identify and evaluate alternatives to the projects under review. The bill would also prevent the general public and local and state governments from submitting comments on alternatives to proposed projects and would allow only 20 days to review and comment on the projects themselves (as opposed to the 90 days required under NEPA).
Although conservationists strongly support enhanced use of solar, wind, and other renewable technologies, such projects should be given the same levels of scrutiny under NEPA as non-renewable projects, and the public should have the same opportunity to review and comment on them. In addition, the legislation's broad definition of "renewable energy project" could curtail scrutiny of projects with potentially high environmental costs, such as hydroelectric dams and waste incineration plants.
The bill came to the House floor without benefit of hearings or committee deliberations. On June 15, 2004, the House approved H.R. 4513 by a 229-186 vote (House roll call vote 242). NO is the pro-environment vote. At press time, the bill had yet to be approved by the Senate.