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Press Release

Westerman Inquires Into Regulatory Overreach at Commerce Department

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, inquiring into the agency's potential overreach of congressional authority and lack of proper rulemaking. In part, Westerman wrote:

"The House Committee on Natural Resources (Committee) has jurisdiction over the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During the Biden administration, NOAA’s actions have raised significant concerns about the agency exceeding its authority. For example, NOAA Fisheries failed to conduct formal stakeholder engagement before proposing the North Atlantic Right Whale Vessel Strike Reduction rule. Under the guise of protecting right whales, the proposed rule would impose unworkable boating speed restrictions throughout our nation’s Atlantic coast. Thousands of recreational vessels would be impacted by the rule’s expansion of mandatory speed restrictions to include vessels 35 feet and larger, and broadening of seasonal speed restrictions. Many fishermen may forgo boating trips due to time, cost, and safety burdens imposed by the rule. Further, the rule’s speed restrictions threaten boating safety, as preventing boaters from utilizing increased speeds during thunderstorms or gale force wind conditions could place boaters at extreme risk. Additionally, NOAA’s use of questionable analyses casts doubt on the agency’s adherence to appropriate rulemaking processes. 

"At the beginning of this year, NOAA signed a Memorandum related to Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultations with the Department of the Army (Civil Works). The Memorandum addressed how the agencies evaluate the effects of projects involving existing structures on listed species and designated critical habitat. In part, the agreement altered the definition of 'environmental baseline.' As a result, in addition to maintenance action, compensatory mitigation for maintenance of existing permitted structures is now required. Despite having nation-wide implications, the agreement was reached without public stakeholder input. Ultimately, the Memorandum is a step backwards because it lengthens the formal Section 7 consultation process required for critical infrastructure projects."

Read the full letter here.