Policy Update – September 2022

In this month’s policy update, we share news on permitting reform, Ambler Road in Alaska, and WWA grassroots group Wasatch Backcountry Alliance’s fight against the gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Photo Credit: Adam Clark @acpictures

From Hilary Eisen, WWA Policy Director (9/27/2022)

Permitting Reform

The big thing that we’ve been tracking and working on this month is federal permitting legislation – specifically, understanding how Senator Manchin’s permitting reform efforts might affect NEPA and other environmental laws.

Senator Manchin’s bill, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022, weakens the environmental review (NEPA) process for projects related to energy development and mining by setting arbitrary time limits on NEPA processes and limiting opportunities for litigation. Full details on the Energy Independence and Security Act are on our blog, here.

Permitting reform could help the country build out clean energy equitably and efficiently, expediting development that would make it easier to use renewable energy. However, these reforms must be done thoughtfully and must take into account environmental justice concerns, particularly around energy development and frontline communities. The EISA was crafted behind closed doors and initially Senate leadership tried to rush it through by attaching it to the Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government (“must pass” legislation). However, when it became clear that the bill did not have enough support to pass, Senator Manchin pulled it from the CR.

Now, Senator Manchin and others in Congress are considering next steps on permitting reform. As Congress considers how to move forward with permitting reform, we urge them to take up the Environmental Justice for All Act, which was drafted in consultation with environmental justice communities to give them a voice in permitting decisions.

Our friends at Outdoor Alliance have created a form for you to share your voice and ask Congress to get the permitting process done right. Send a letter to your representatives now!

Ambler Road Update (Alaska)

Speaking of permitting, the BLM just announced the start of a 45-day scoping period for preparing a supplemental EIS concerning authorization of the Ambler Road. This is the 211-mile long industrial access road that the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority would like to build through the heart of the Brooks Range to facilitate development of a massive copper mine.

We, and many Alaska partners, challenged BLM’s initial approval of the road and were pleased with the Biden Administration decided to revisit this decision. The comment period closes November 4, 2022, so plan on hearing more from WWA with a take action form to share your voice about this in October!

UDOT Gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon (Utah)

Finally, if you ski in the Wasatch please consider commenting on the Utah Department of Transportation’s proposal to build a gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon to relieve traffic congestion.

Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, a WWA grassroots group, is fighting this terrible idea and they’ve got an easy-to-use action form for you to weigh in!

To quote my neighbor’s yard decoration, which made its annual appearance last week – happy fall y’all!