The Senate's energy bill would exempt energy companies from complying with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) when drilling for oil and gas. As the process currently works, when an energy company wants to drill, it must prepare an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that says how the drilling will effect the surrounding environment. This ranges from how it will effect the air, to the ground water, to the animals in the area. Three EISs are prepared. A worst case, a best case, and a most likely scenario. After the EIS is prepared, there is a public comment period where private citizens are given time to let their voices be heard in regards to the EIS and anything else they think may affect them. After the comment period, the government agency reviews the EIS and the comments. If they feel the project should go forward, then the project goes forward. If they think the costs to the environment are greater than the benefits, then the project is scrapped. The only thing a judge can overrule the government agency on is if the decision to allow the project to go forward is 'arbitrary or capricious.' That means, if the governmental agency can show just cause for letting it go forward, the judge throws out suits in summary judgment.
So, in essence, what NEPA really does is say 'look before you leap' and gives private citizens a chance to be heard. It does not block legitimate projects. It just says look before you leap. I don't think that is such a bad thing. I know there are times I wish I had followed that advice in my own life.
Oil projects may get less scrutiny
By Tom Kenworthy, USA TODAY
Wed May 4, 6:11 AM ET
When a Denver-based energy company proposed to explore and drill for natural gas in an area rich with ancient Indian art panels, the plan kicked off a rigorous environmental review.
The company, Bill Barrett Corp., spent two years and $1 million to comply with the federal law that requires studying what the drilling would do to the environment. The 1969 environmental law also requires consultations with government agencies, Indian tribes and residents before drilling and exploring can begin.
The result: The federal Bureau of Land Management forced changes in the project to protect thousands of rock art and artifacts, as well as wildlife and streams.
"It slowed things down a little bit, so the (Bureau of Land Management) could do it right," says Pam Miller of the College of Eastern Utah's Prehistoric Museum.
But in the future, companies like Barrett that produce oil and gas in the Rocky Mountain West may not have to undergo that kind of environmental analysis.
A section of the energy bill approved by the House of Representatives last month would exempt many federal energy projects from the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act.