BY ELENA CONNOLLY AND MICHAEL SANDOVAL MAY 3, 2018
Former Democratic governor and Obama Administration officials agreed for the need to streamline and improve the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) approval process during a panel discussion hosted by the Wilderness Society today.
“One of the criticisms of the Obama administration was overreach, regulatory overreach. And that might be a fair criticism, there may be places where the administration overreached in certain areas or certain aspects,” said Bill Ritter, current director of the Center for New Energy Economy and former Democratic Governor of Colorado from 2007 to 2010.
Ritter said the agencies involved need to better work together at the start of the process to cut down on time spent on each stage in order to give those navigating the permitting process realistic timelines for planning purposes.
“If the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] is going to give you a 2030 deadline for targeting your emissions reduction, you have to build up a bunch of renewables, you can’t take 13 years to permit a transmission line, as they had done in the state of Idaho,” Ritter added.
When it comes to leasing on public lands for energy production, Ritter argued that the process currently has a “lack of balance,” but didn’t limit that categorization to the current Trump administration.
“I went to the White House with a bunch of utility CEOs or government affairs people during Clean Power Plan, between the draft and the final. And our point to the White House was we need to streamline NEPA,” Ritter told the panel.
Ritter added that it is important to balance the desire to cultivate natural resources with other uses for the land.
Streamlining NEPA is one way to achieve that goal, Ritter said.
“I totally agree with that perspective,” said Ann Bartuska, Vice President at Resources for the Future and former Deputy Under Secretary for Research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Obama Administration.