November 30, 2010

Report Claims Stimulus Bill Included NEPA Exemptions

In an attempt to create jobs, the Obama administration gave "billions of dollars in stimulus money" and "sweeping exemptions from the most basic form of environmental oversight," according to a recent report from the Center for Public Integrity.

"The administration has awarded more than 179,000 'categorical exclusions' to stimulus projects funded by federal agencies, freeing those projects from review under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA," Kristen Lombardi and John Solomon wrote in a report, posted Sunday to the organization's official website.

Among those receiving the NEPA exemptions are "coal-burning utilities like Westar Energy and Duke Energy, chemical manufacturer DuPont, and ethanol maker Didion Milling," all of whom have "histories of serious environmental violations," according to Lombardi and Solomon.

Likewise, a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, which according to the Center was the site of a 2005 explosion and a benzene leak earlier this year, was able to secure a waiver for a since-abandoned project under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"Agency officials who granted the exemptions told the Center that they do not have time in most cases to review the environmental compliance records of stimulus recipients, and do not believe past violations should affect polluters' chances of winning stimulus money or the NEPA exclusions," Lombardi and Solomon said.

"Documents obtained by the Center show the administration has devised a speedy review process that relies on voluntary disclosures by companies to determine whether stimulus projects pose environmental harm. Corporate polluters often omitted mention of health, safety, and environmental violations from their applications. In fact, administration officials told the Center they chose to ignore companies' environmental compliance records in making grant decisions and issuing NEPA exemptions, saying they considered such information irrelevant," they added.

The Center for Public Integrity was founded by former ABC News and 60 Minutes investigative producer Charles Lewis in March 1989. It is a nonprofit, non-partisan agency which is reportedly committed to comprehensive reporting in the U.S. and throughout the globe, with a special focus on investigative reports on key public issues. Their work has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Association of Capital Reporters and Editors, and the National Press Foundation.


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