The leaders of three Colorado agencies charged with environmental responsibility are speaking out against President Trump's executive order to curtail public reviews and speed up federal environmental permitting.
Trump signed the order last week to ease the review processes under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act, as well as the Federal Policy and Land Management Act.
President Trump signed an executive order Thursday waiving environmental laws to speed up federal permits for highways, mines, pipelines and other infrastructure, citing the economic distress from the coronavirus shutdown as a national emergency.
The signatories work for Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat elected to office on a strong environmental platform.
A joint statement was released Tuesday evening by:
- Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office
- Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources
- Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment
- Shoshana Lew, executive director of the Department of Transportation
"Our Departments have successfully worked with local governments, businesses, stakeholders and citizens on numerous high profile projects where public engagement and additional environmental review enabled better projects, greater community buy-in, and increased protections for wildlife and natural resources," they stated.
They cited examples such as the Central Interstate 70 Development in Denver, the I-70 Mountain Corridor near Glenwood Springs, the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and the Chatfield Reservoir Reallocation Project.
"The attempt to avoid public engagement, environmental analysis and mitigation will damage Coloradans’ health, environment and economy," the statement continued. "It will affect all parts of the state, from our prized public lands to urban development. It will threaten protections and careful balancing for water projects, as well as progress towards environmental justice including in building transportation infrastructure — which has had a legacy of significantly impacting urban downtowns and minority communities in the 1950s and 1960s, before these environmental protections were put in place. At a time when the risks of respiratory illnesses are especially worrisome, we should be doing more to account for communities’ health, not less."
The agency leaders said Colorado prioritizes efficient government but values public input.
"While emergency exceptions do occur for some federal environmental rules, they are intended for true physical emergencies such as washed out roads from the 2013 floods, replacement of critical facilities after wildfires or failing dams," they stated.
"Neither the COVID-19 emergency nor current economic conditions fall into that category that would justify shortcutting engaged, smart and thoughtful projects and decisions. Indeed, now more than ever, we need to ensure that projects protect our communities and safeguard Coloradans’ health, land, air, water, and wildlife."