U.S. Reps to review environmental reg’s role in affordable energy, post-Katrina

Washington, DC — As America tries to rebuild itself and deal with record high energy prices in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Taskforce on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) will hold its fifth hearing on the role NEPA plays in accessing affordable, domestic energy, building roads and homes, and managing the nation’s natural resources. The hearing will be at 1:00 p.m. Sat., Sept. 17 at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.

“Due to the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina, we have seen massive damage caused to our energy systems and have come to understand the importance of energy production,” said taskforce chairwoman Cathy McMorris (R-WA). “Throughout the NEPA taskforce we have heard from numerous industries that expensive and time consuming legal and procedural delays are preventing energy production and construction projects. Now more then ever, we need to closely examine these issues and provide relief to the industries and individuals who are being crippled by high energy prices.”

NEPA, which established a national environmental policy framework, has resulted in thousands of lawsuits in the last 30 years. As the Los Angeles Times reported last week, Congress approved a massive hurricane barrier to protect New Orleans nearly three decades ago, but a NEPA lawsuit from an environmental group derailed the project in 1977. The Taskforce has also heard previously that NEPA requirements and lawsuits cause some energy producers to spend more than a decade to market clean natural gas that would increase our national supplies and help to lower costs.

The taskforce already held four hearings across the United States this year, hearing from an array of interested parties and individuals who work with NEPA on an everyday basis. Witness testimony and public comment letters demonstrated that NEPA directly impacts the production and delivery of domestic energy supplies.

U.S. energy supplies grew tighter and tighter this month, causing gas prices to push to painful highs and analysts to predict that the price of natural gas used for home heating would increase 71 percent this winter.

The taskforce will continue to probe what, if any, measures Congress should take to improve NEPA and prevent these barriers to energy production and development in the Mid-Atlantic states.

“In the midst of a difficult week following Hurricane Katrina, it has become painfully apparent that the nation still lacks the necessary energy supply channels capable of keeping us running in times of crisis,” said Congresswoman Thelma Drake (R-VA).

“Over the past few months, the Task Force dedicated itself to taking an introspective look at the role NEPA plays in hampering our ability as a nation to develop efficient supply chains capable of providing Americans with affordable energy,” Drake continued. “For years, construction projects that could have mitigated adverse impacts to our supply have been needlessly blocked due to endless red tape and a sluggish federal bureaucracy. This hearing provides us with the opportunity to consider ways to cut through the red-tape so that what we have experienced in the wake of Katrina does not happen again.”

The NEPA Task Force is a bipartisan group of House Resources Committee members that have been charged with reviewing and making recommendations on improving the NEPA. At the conclusion of the hearings, the NEPA Taskforce will issue a report that will discuss their findings and any appropriate recommendations.

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