By: Laurie Anderson, Colorado Field Organizer, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: October 19, 2021
About: NEPA Phase I Rulemaking CEQ-2021-0002
To: Council on Environmental Quality
My name is Laurie Anderson, and I am a field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. I live in Broomfield, Colorado. Thank you for this opportunity to speak today in support of fully restoring NEPA protections for public health, public input, and the environment.
I am a mom of five kids living just a half mile from a recently fracked 18-well large-scale oil and gas development site. I also serve as a Councilmember for the City and County of Broomfield, but am speaking on my own behalf. Government transparency and public input are essential to residents here.
NEPA is the foundational law that ensures we all have a voice in major federal decisions that affect public health and the environment. Strong NEPA regulations are critical for the protection of public input, scientific integrity, equitable access to courts, and the consideration of public health.
I support CEQ’s proposed phase 1 rule as a critical step toward restoring essential NEPA regulations that were undermined in 2020, and I urge CEQ to move swiftly to a phase 2 rulemaking that will fully restore NEPA protections and reverse the 2020 rollbacks. It is critical that CEQ also engage directly and extensively with all communities, ensuring disproportionately impacted communities also have a voice.
Protecting public health and the environment is of critical importance. Here in Colorado, we are already facing air quality and climate impacts and we must ensure that future federal agency decisions do not further hinder progress in addressing these issues.
I live along Colorado’s Front Range of the Rocky Mountains where we struggle with high ground-level ozone. The Denver Metro North Front Range is currently listed in “serious” nonattainment for ground-level ozone and is slated to soon be downgraded to “severe” nonattainment as we contend with ozone originating from oil and gas sector pollution in the DJ basin combined with elevated background ozone originating outside Colorado’s borders. This year, we had a record-breaking summer ozone season with 67 high ozone days. These are days when poor air quality conditions exist in which residents should not exercise outdoors and avoid tailpipe emissions by working from home. We simply cannot continue forward with additional, cumulative adverse impacts.
As Colorado has experienced the detrimental effects of air pollution and climate change, we have been forced to contend with the negative impacts of oil and gas extraction. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission recently underwent rulemaking following the passage of Senate Bill 19-181 to protect public health, safety, and welfare. Important provisions that were added include required alternative site analysis and cumulative impact analysis. Just as oil and gas developers must consider existing impacts, and those impacts that their corporation plans to add, so too must our federal government consider the increased burden on our communities and put the greatest emphasis on solutions that enhance the project and avoid additional cumulative community impacts.
Additionally, I am concerned about the impacts of climate change. Last year, Colorado experienced the three worst wildfires in our state’s history, which impacted air quality across the state, and this year we have spent the summer with mostly smoky days from wildfires in the West. Colorado remains in severe drought on the western slope, and we rely on our winter snowpack for our water supply. These impacts are serious, and again, we must avoid additional cumulative impacts to our communities.
When done well, the NEPA process does not greatly extend the time it takes to approve projects, but rather results in significantly better projects.
I support the proposed rule to undo one of the most damaging rollbacks in the 2020 regulations—the elimination of the explicit requirement that agencies consider cumulative and indirect effects, which has allowed agencies to ignore climate impacts.
However, there is still much more that CEQ must do in the phase 2 rulemaking to fully restore NEPA protections and make sure that NEPA regulations align with the text and purpose of the NEPA statute. We need to ensure equitable access to the courts and public participation in federal decision making. Major federal actions that might have harmful impacts to communities and public health must undergo review and cannot be excluded from the NEPA process. And we must ensure that private sector applicants cannot prepare their own environmental review documents.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment.