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Agencies Questioned on Impacts of Obama Administration’s New Environmental Mitigation Regulations

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 24, 2016 -

Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held an oversight hearing to review the Presidential Memoranda on mitigation issued on November 3rd, 2015 to five federal agencies. The memoranda creates sweeping new statutory authority and new requirements that agencies must use when evaluating and approving projects on federal lands and waters.

“This Administration hasn’t shown much, if any desire to actually develop our resources,” stated Subcommittee Chairman Louie Gohmert. “I’d like to see policies that promote efficient development of our natural resources and provide for their appropriate mitigation, but what this Congress cannot accept is another attempt to increase the unilateral expansion of the executive branch and the influence of land managers outside of their fiefdoms.” 

Many of the terms used in the Memorandum to describe resources requiring mitigation from projects—including “important,” “scarce,” “sensitive,” and “irreplaceable”—are largely undefined. These vague terms create potential legal uncertainty relating to the Endangered Species Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act for scores of permitted activities on federal lands.

Members raised concerns that the Memorandum's standards exceed statutory standards set in law by Congress and will result in further regulatory confusion and burdens. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) raised concerns that it will delay or derail a host of economic and energy-related projects that should otherwise be approved under current law.  

Rep. Raul  Labrador (R-ID) questioned panelists on definitions of phrases and words used in the statute to characterize environmental resources and mitigation thresholds. In response to their answers, he said, “That’s the problem that I have with this, is that we are actually going through this analysis that is so subjective instead of objective. You can define it any way you want and then I can define it any way I want.”

"The Memorandum is not a regulation or new requirement," Managing Director of the Council on Environmental Quality Christy Goldfuss argued on behalf of the Obama Administration.

Click here to view the full witness testimony.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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