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Federal Debt Ceiling Legislation Bad Deal for Rivers

Posted: 05/31/2023
By: Bob Nasdor

Legislation raising the federal debt ceiling includes unrelated provisions weakening the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by limiting environmental reviews of federally permitted activities. NEPA is a critically important safeguard that ensures that federal agencies consider the environmental impacts of hydropower dams, pipelines, mining projects, public access enhancements, and other activities when issuing permits. The deal between the White House and House leadership would limit the scope of environmental reviews and seeks to fast track energy projects that have the potential to harm rivers. 

NEPA is about more than just supporting well-reasoned decisions, it is the primary law that requires agencies to seek and consider public input when making a decision. American Whitewater and the paddling community often meaningfully participate in dam relicensing, forest planning, access issues, and other important matters on public lands thanks to NEPA. The proposed debt ceiling legislation would reduce or eliminate our ability to bring our input to many federal decisions that impact rivers and public access. 

The legislation also specifically directs federal agencies to approve the Mountain Valley Pipeline project that will cross more than a thousand streams, creeks, rivers, and wetlands, including numerous whitewater rivers like the Gauley and the Kanawha, to transport carbon-polluting natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia. The law would prevent any meaningful review of the effects of this project on rivers and climate change by either land management agencies or the courts.

Efforts to weaken environmental laws and environmental review have been long sought by the energy industry through court challenges to both federal and state environmental review authority, as well as through lobbying and campaign contributions. In sum,this debt ceiling legislation will harm rivers and worsen the impacts of climate change. American Whitewater is disappointed by these actions and is redoubling its efforts to strengthen environmental safeguards. Key votes on this debt ceiling legislation are likely to occur this week. While we do not anticipate opportunities for changing the language of the deal, we are currently working to educate Members of Congress on how this legislation will impact environmental review of projects that affect rivers. If this proposed legislation disappoints you as much as it does us, give the Whitehouse or your local House rep a call and let them respectfully know how you feel. 

Comment Line: 202-456-1111



Bob Nasdor

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