Thank you, Environmental Protection Agency director Andrew Wheeler, for even bothering to make public on June 13 the changes you wish to make to the National Environmental Protection Act and asking for comment due Aug. 12. You lament the backlog of 5,000 environmental impact statements after systematically defunding and understaffing the U.S. Forest Service for 20 years. Your massively complex, 16 page, nine-point font, three-column document is surprisingly clear in its intent.
You’d like us to know less, later and with not too much input into projects a private developer of federal lands may wish to move forward on.
My general comments are as follows. They build on a premise that, at a time of unprecedented degradation of natural resources, the intent to reduce the science and oversight of the development of precious roadless lands and water is a mistake that will disastrously accelerate depletion of the most valuable of our natural resources. Once lost, it is painfully slow to return.
First: I do not think it wise to take away the roadless status of 90,000 acres above the North Fork Valley for coal extraction. The value of coal is reducing, at a rate similar to the increasing value of roadless land and the clean waters it produces.
Second: The reduction of the necessity for an environmental impact statement is not advised.
I don’t want to reduce the complexity of environmental assessments.
I want to require acceptable alternatives to be proposed in environmental assessments.
I want to have input at a first scoping and subsequent reviews of a project but, increasing categorical exclusions, even for extending 1 to 4 miles of road into roadless or adding four well pads (80 wells), takes that away.
I find your proposed revisions of unacceptable.