Your Congress in Action: Vol. 9

07/23/2020 12:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. This information is sourced from the Coalition for American Heritage, news articles, and more. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

  • President Trump announced the NEPA regulatory rollback on Wednesday, July 15. The final rule closely resembles the proposed rule, and you can see ACRA's initial statement on the finalized regulations here. The Coalition for American Heritage, of which ACRA is a founding member, is working on a more robust analysis of the new rule and putting together a call to action for members to express their concerns to Congress. If the regulations are not challenged in court, they will go into effect in mid-September after 60 days following publication. Please be sure to let us know if you see any impacts of this rule on your projects.
    • Organizations are exploring different ways to challenge the new regulations: 
      • Congress could reverse the NEPA rule through the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which is an oversight tool that Congress can use to overturn rules issued by federal agencies. The CRA requires agencies to report on their rulemaking activities to Congress and provides Congress with a special set of procedures under which to consider legislation to overturn those rules. The House and Senate Parliamentarians are the sole definitive arbiters of the CRA parliamentary mechanism, including time periods involved. This is a possibility only if Democrats sweep the White House and take control of both chambers of Congress. 
      • Congress can also modify the regulations through Congressional action. 
      • Other avenues are through litigation that stipulates the regulations violate the intent and purpose of NEPA. Also, since the published version of the regulations did not directly address comments on the draft, the litigation could potentially focus on violations of the Administrative Procedures Act.
    • Joe Biden used the announcement of the NEPA rollback to issue his own environmental plan and sharpen the contrast between the two candidates.
  • Both the House and Senate are in session this week. It is expected to be a busy week of votes, but the timing of a funeral for Rep. John Lewis could disrupt the schedule. The House plans to vote on the Great American Outdoors Act. However, several Republicans are pushing back because the revenues from offshore oil leases are lower than in past years; these revenues would be used to offset costs of the Act. Beginning on Thursday, the House will take up a minibus that includes the FY 2021 Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture and Military- Construction-Veterans bill. This minibus will be separate from bills addressing the virus and unemployment. UPDATE: The House passed the Great American Outdoors Act on Thursday afternoon. The bill will make permanent $900 million per year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and direct up to $9.5 billion over five years to the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Fund to help address huge backlogs in maintenance needs.

  • The Democrats on the Appropriations Committee have used their bills as vehicles to remove Confederate monuments and rename military bases. The Secretary of Defense issued a new policy that effectively bans the Confederate flag from all military bases.

  • The recent Supreme Court ruling that nearly half of eastern Oklahoma is tribal land will have major impacts on pipeline construction. Oklahoma is the nation’s 4th-largest oil producing state. About ¼ of the state’s recent oil and gas wells and roughly 60% of its refinery capacity now lie within the territory of 5 tribes, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. Additionally, pipelines leading to Cushing, OK, a terminal for the Keystone XL, go across the redrawn reservation borders. This has likely been the most far-reaching Court decision affecting tribes since the Cobell decision in 1999 addressing government mismanagement of individual Indian money accounts. If you are interested in learning more about these issues and the Supreme Court case, see the podcast This Land. The ruling will force the state and the tribes to negotiate several issues, including who will be responsible for environmental permitting.

  • President Trump appears to be using his Executive Order on monuments to authorize intelligence surveillance of protesters. For information on a Department of Homeland Security memo authorizing intelligence collection, click here.

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House minority leader, rolled out a bill titled the "Protect America’s Statues Act of 2020" with Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Sam Graves (R-MO). The bill would prevent state and local governments that do not protect monuments from receiving federal grants.

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