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Letter to the Hon. Mary Neumayr, Chairman on the Council of Environmental Quality - Bennet Joins Carper, 55 Colleagues in Bicameral Letter to White House Demanding Release of Public Records about Fast-Tracked Projects

Dear Ms. Neumayr:

On June 4, 2020, the President signed Executive Order 13927 on "Accelerating the Nation's Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 Emergency by Expediting Infrastructure Investments and Other Activities." The Executive Order calls for agencies to provide reports to the White House listing projects, activities, and decisions that they will attempt to move forward under expedited review. Projects listed in these reports are federal, relate directly to federal agency actions and decisions that are funded by taxpayer dollars, and are subject to a myriad of federal laws that require transparency and public accountability. As such, documents related to the implementation of this Executive Order should be public.

However, on July 7, 2020, just three days after the deadline passed for the White House to receive the first reports from agencies in response to the Executive Order, Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Chase Jennings told reporters that "These reports are not public."[1] These reports contain information on how billions of taxpayer dollars will be spent on projects impacting the health and safety of their communities. How these taxpayer dollars are spent should be subject to taxpayer scrutiny. By keeping these reports from the public, this administration is concealing its own response to the economic crisis brought on by the COVID pandemic. If the administration is confident that this Executive Order can legally and legitimately provide economic relief, it should disclose which projects and decisions it is advancing under the auspices of the Order.

In order to guarantee oversight of the implementation of E.O. 13927 and to ensure the public availability of all associated reports, please provide the House Natural Resources Committee, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works with the following reports as soon as possible, but no later than August 17, 2020:

All reports submitted by Federal agencies to the Council on Environment Quality (CEQ) identifying projects and actions that have been expedited pursuant to Executive Order No. 13927;

Any report submitted to CEQ by the head of any federal agency in response to Executive Order No. 13972 identifying any planned or potential actions that: (A) may be subject to emergency treatment as alternative arrangements pursuant to CEQ's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations and an agencies' own NEPA procedures; (B) may be subject to statutory exemptions of NEPA; (C) may be subject to the categorical exclusions that agencies have included in their NEPA procedures pursuant to the NEPA regulations; (D) may be covered by already completed NEPA analyses that obviate the need for new analyses; or (E) may otherwise use concise and focused NEPA environmental analyses;
Any report submitted to CEQ by the head of any federal agency in response to Executive Order No. 13927 identifying planned or potential actions that may be subject to the Endangered Species Act regulation on consultations in emergencies, (50 C.F.R. 402.05);
Any report submitted to CEQ by the head of any federal agency in response to Executive Order No. 13927 identifying planned or potential actions to facilitate the Nation's economic recovery that may be subject to emergency treatment under the regulations and nationwide permits promulgated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or jointly by the Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and
Any report submitted to CEQ by or on behalf of the head of any federal agency in response to Executive Order No. 13927 identifying planned or potential actions to facilitate the Nation's economic recovery that may be subject to emergency or expedited treatment, including waivers, exemptions, or other streamlining, with regard to agency actions pertinent to infrastructure, energy, environmental, or natural resources matters.

As Executive Order No. 13927 also requires these agencies to provide updated reports at regular intervals, you must also set up a system for the continued release of documents and lists.

If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Matthew Muirragui with the House Natural Resources Committee at (202) 225-6065, Navis Bermudez with the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure at (202) 225-0060, or Andrew Wishnia with the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works at (202) 224-6176. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,


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