SPEECH: Sullivan leads effort to overturn Biden’s onerous NEPA rules

WASHINGTONMadam President, I want to talk about two other issues today that I care deeply about--I think most Senators do, and certainly Americans do--and that is two things that our country desperately needs: infrastructure and energy. Infrastructure and energy--and we all know that this is what is needed. 

We talk about it here a lot in the Senate. However, some, especially in the Biden administration, talk a lot about these issues but, then, when it comes to taking action, maybe not so much. Maybe that is starting to change, maybe not. 

But I am going to talk about something I introduced in the Senate yesterday that is going to be action, especially on infrastructure. So let's talk about infrastructure first.

Yesterday, I introduced a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act--it is what we call the CRA--which will nullify the Biden administration's new regulations that are remarkably going to bog down the ability to permit infrastructure projects. It is going to add to the redtape that every single American who cares about this issue knows is a problem, and it is a new reg from the Biden administration--remarkably, because they supposedly are for infrastructure, and I am going to get to that. It is a new reg to make it harder to build infrastructure projects.

So let me unpack a little bit of that because it is something that I think all Americans care about. I know they care about it, but it can kind of be boring and technical, with permitting and things like that. 

When the National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA, was passed in the late sixties, it required an environmental impact statement, an EIS, as we call these things. In the old days, you would do an EIS. It would take about a year, maybe. You would get public input. It was maybe 100 pages. OK? The process worked. People were engaged. It didn't bog down things, and you would have a couple of hundred pages that the average American could read and then you would build, which is what we all want to do in a responsible way.

Fast forward to today. NEPA has been completely abused. This is a huge passion of mine because it hurts everybody. Too many people, too many Americans now know the numbers: 4 to 6 years on average to complete any EIS in America. Most cost millions of dollars. Most EISes are thousands of pages so no one reads them. How can you read them? And it is undeniably killing our ability to build infrastructure.

The only people, in my view, who really like this new system are, A, radical far-left environmental groups that don't want to build anything--OK, that is a group; it is not a big group in America, but, unfortunately, they have a loud voice--and probably the Chinese Communist Party. When they know they have to compete against us, they love the fact that it takes 9 to 10 years to permit a bridge in the U.S.A. 

Let me provide some examples. GAO did a study quite a while ago on new highway construction to build and design a new highway, 9 to 19 years, on average, in America. It is about 8 years, I think, for Federal permits to permit a bridge--a bridge--in America.

The Gross Reservoir in Colorado, which is going to offer clean water to the people of that State, it has been two decades--20 years--to permit that important infrastructure project.

The California bullet train project--holy cow--approved in the nineties and still not built. The Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia, it began in 2015 with 20 miles left to complete. I hate to say it. It will never be completed--litigation, back to the courts, NEPA, radical enviros stopping it. This is not America. This is not the way it should work. 

My State, unfortunately, has been the epicenter of groups that try to stop any resource development projects--any projects--a road, a bridge, a gold mine. The Kensington Mine in Alaska now employs over 400 people, average wage $110,000 per year. That is great money. It took almost 20 years to permit if you include the litigation--20 years. Who is that benefiting?

I worked with the Trump administration on their NEPA Executive order. I worked in the Environment and Public Works Committee on this infrastructure bill that President Biden supported. We got good--not great--but we got some pretty darn good permitting reform, based on some of what we did in the Trump administration, to bring projects to be able to build in a timely, efficient manner, not cutting corners. There is one Federal Agency in charge of decision, time limits on NEPA requirements to 2 years, limitations on pages for NEPA. These are commonsense reforms. We got them into law. OK. That is pretty good. Bipartisan. The President hailed this as one of his big signature achievements. I voted for it, in part, because of NEPA reforms, because of permitting reforms.

What am I upset about? About 4 months ago, the Biden administration's Council on Environmental Quality not only revised the Trump Executive order on permitting, which the average American Republican and Democrat thought was good--they actually undertook new regulations for NEPA that are clearly--clearly--intended to make it harder to permit infrastructure projects, particularly energy infrastructure projects.

Just ask anyone. Go look at the regs. Go look at what they put out. What I find remarkable is that the President let this come out of his White House. He is supposedly ``Mr. Infrastructure,'' ``Mr. Building Trades,'' ``Mr. Joe Six-Pack Union Guy.'' 

This is a product of the radical, elite, coastal Democratic special interests that is going to make it harder to build things. That is a fact. It is a sad fact, especially because a lot of us came together as Democrats and Republicans to pass permitting reform.

So what did I file yesterday? A Congressional Review Act resolution says that if Congress doesn't like a big regulation coming out of the executive branch, we can vote to rescind it. We can vote to rescind it. So, yesterday, I filed one of those resolutions targeting this new rule from the Biden administration meant to slow down the building of infrastructure.

Here is the thing. You don't see this a lot, but every single Republican Senator is a cosponsor of my resolution--50--50 cosponsors of our Congressional Review Act resolution on infrastructure.

The other good thing about the CRA law, Congressional Review Act law, it is a privileged resolution. What does that mean? It means Majority Leader Schumer, even if he doesn't like it, has to take it up. 

Here is the other thing. Under the CRA law, you only need 51 Senators 51 Senators to make it pass the Senate. So my Democratic colleagues are going to have a tough choice here. I don't think it should be tough. I think it should be 100 to 0. If you want infrastructure for America and you want to stand with the men and women who build things in America, then you are going to vote for my resolution. Simple. 

Let me quote the Laborers' International, LIUNA, the biggest construction trade union in America, led by a great American, Terry O'Sullivan. When the Biden administration was putting out their NEPA rule, the laborers said: What are you doing? Here is our statement. Here is what they thought about that rule: 

Once again, communities in need of vital infrastructure and the hard working men and women who build America will be waiting as project details for infrastructure are subjected to onerous reviews [by these new rules]. 

That is the Laborers'. Those are the men and women who build America. Americans will continue to bear the expense of NEPA-related delays, which cost taxpayers millions of dollars annually.

Lengthy review processes and unpredictable legal challenges which will result from these new regs will have a chilling impact on private investment and infrastructure.

That is what the Laborers' said.

This is going to be an interesting vote because I have said this a number of times--I think some of my Democratic friends have gotten a little upset with me, but I think it is a fact; it is certainly a fact in Alaska--whenever the national Democrats have a choice between the radical far-left environmentalists, the coastal elites, and the men and women who build things and made our country great, they always choose the radical environmentalists. I mentioned this in the Commerce Committee hearing the other day. Some of my colleagues got a little upset with me. I said: All right. Guess what I am going to have--a CRA. I am going to put it on the floor, and it is going to be a test vote. I know where 50 Republicans stand. We are going to stand with the men and women who build stuff. If you support my CRA like the Laborers' do or will, the resolution, you are going to support it. If you support infrastructure for America, you are going to support our resolution. If you support energy for America, you are going to support our resolution. If you support the men and women who actually build stuff in this country, good wages, you are going to support my resolution. If you stand with the coastal environmental elites who want to shut down this country, you will vote against it.

I think it is going to be really interesting to see what the men and women of the U.S. Senate stand for: far-left environmentalists who just want to stop anything and shut it all down or the men or women who build stuff? 

That vote is going to come in the next few weeks, and I am going to be down here on the floor a lot talking about it. I hope my colleagues do the right thing because we all know what the right thing to do is: to move this country forward, to build on the infrastructure bill, and to get working and support the men and women who do that hard work.