Yesterday, James Inhofe led a group of senators to introduce S. 3230, the NEPA Certainty Act. This legislation would prevent the Executive Branch from researching or mitigating the climate impact of federal projects under the auspices of the National Environmental Policy Act.
The National Environmental Policy Act was created in order to help the government make environmentally sensible decisions about federal projects as well as to make information available to the public about the likely environmental impacts of government projects. The central role of climate change in environmental problems has been known for years now, and so it’s a reasonable move to assess climate impact as a part of the NEPA process. In fact, to avoid such assessments would render NEPA inaccurate and ineffective.
However, Senator Inhofe’s coalition seems to have concluded that if the government simply stops researching the impact of climate change, then that impact will turn out not to exist, and nothing will have to be done about it. Certainly, if Congress knows nothing about the potential climate impact of federal projects, then intelligent, targeted efforts to reduce that impact can not take place. Nonetheless, the lack of information required to deal with a problem does not result in the problem going away.
Avoiding NEPA research into the potential climate impact of federal projects may seem in the short term to provide a small savings. However, the inaction that will be enabled by the government’s intentional ignorance has the result to result in costs that far exceed the savings Senator Inhofe celebrates. Each particular federal project might have a very small impact on climate, but when considered collectively, the likely impact of the government’s project is quite significant. Knowing where the greatest opportunity for reduction of climate impact lies could result in huge financial savings for the government, and for our society as a whole.
When our government begins projects in the absence of adequate knowledge, the risk of significant problems in the future becomes much greater. Congress has the duty of ensuring that oversight of Executive Branch projects is thorough. A legislative effort such as Senator Inhofe’s, designed to squelch such oversight is a failure to uphold a central constitutional duty.
The following are the senators who have cosponsored Infhofe’s effort to prevent effective environmental oversight of federal projects: John Barasso, David Vitter, Mike Enzi, James Risch, Robert Bennett and Pat Roberts.