Southside Groundbreaking

Congressman Garret Graves speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Southside campus on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020.

President Trump vowed to reduce regulatory burdens, particularly for our nation’s rural communities. The recent modernization of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is proof of this Administration following through on his promise.

NEPA was first signed into law to establish the environmental permitting process for proposed infrastructure projects, but its implementation has become complex and time-consuming, leaving rural communities across the country waiting up to six years for project approval. Working collaboratively with federal agencies across the board, President Trump announced the first update to NEPA in over 40 years, adjusting the important law to facilitate more efficient, effective, and timely environmental reviews of critical infrastructure projects that our rural communities rely upon.

Many countries around the world have modernized their own environmental review processes to reflect the needs of 21st Century development. Germany, Canada, and Australia complete their reviews in two years or less and still consistently outrank the United States on Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index.

Fortunately, Congress has members like Representative Garret Graves (R-LA), who recognize the need to codify this vital modernization and ensure future administrations do not backtrack on this significant progress. Rep. Graves recently introduced the Building U.S. Infrastructure Through Limited Delays & Efficient Reviews Act, or BUILDER Act, to do just that.

As a Member of both the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Natural Resources, Rep. Graves is uniquely positioned to lead the charge for this important legislation. As a fellow Member of the Congressional Western Caucus – an organization focused on providing a voice for local communities in our nation’s capital – he has proven himself to be a champion for rural communities in Louisiana and around the country as he fights for fairer, less burdensome regulations that encourage competition and facilitate environmental stewardship.

The BUILDER Act will ensure that much-needed infrastructure projects can actually move forward with construction, including important coastal restoration projects the people of Louisiana rely on. This legislation streamlines the review process while still requiring efficient and rigorous consideration of potential impacts on our environment, wildlife, and local ecosystems. The BUILDER Act will eliminate complex and outdated requirements that no longer apply to modern project applications, delivering relief to local, state, and tribal governments, businesses, and community groups who are working to improve their local infrastructure.

Whether it is the firefighter responding to an emergency, a mother going to the grocery store with her kids, or a nurse driving to the hospital, all Americans – especially those in rural areas – depend on reliable infrastructure. The BUILDER Act prevents the government from standing in the way of development due to outdated bureaucratic regulation and allows projects to move forward when communities need them, not when the government decides it is ready.

Every American — Republican, Democrat, or otherwise — can also agree that protecting our environment should be a priority. Despite what some opponents might argue, this legislation has environmental preservation at its core. We frequently hear arguments in favor of updating our environmental policies to fit the needs of the modern world. There is no reason why the permitting process should be left behind.

We should all be grateful for Rep. Graves’ leadership. His dedication to rural communities, environmental protection, and critical infrastructure is going to allow for significant improvements across the nation. With people like him in Congress, I am confident that the needs of small-town America will not be overlooked or ignored. The BUILDER Act is proof.

Dan Newhouse is Vice-Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus. He and his family operate an 850-acre farm in Central Washington state. He represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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