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A Compassionate Way to Streamline Environmental Impact Reviews

In early January, the Trump administration released a bold new proposal to boost the efficiency of American business while preserving the sanctity of the U.S. environment. The initiative would streamline the currently protracted environmental impact review process by shaving as much as fifty percent off the current wait time.

Five Years and Counting

On the first day of January, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed into law the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The new law required the government to conduct an assessment of the potential for adverse environmental impact on any new project taking place on federal lands. Nixon’s goal was to enact legislation that required citizens and businesses alike to stop and think about their actions before plunging ahead with any plans.

In those early days of NEPA, the entire review process took a matter of weeks. Over the years, however, a series of court cases that imposed consistently harsher regulations on the environmental impact process saw it continue to expand beyond control. Today, the average environmental impact review takes more than five years from filing to approval. That’s assuming that things don’t go wrong or that the review office in question isn’t overwhelmed or underfunded. Some environmental review processes can last as long as seven years.

Maintaining an Environmental Commitment

On January 10, roughly 50 years after the legislation became law, the Trump administration suggested trimming the environmental review process down to a maximum of two years. Anti-energy protestors paint the decision as a ‘dangerous move.’ Those inside the industry, however, understand that the environmental review process has become overloaded with bureaucratic bloat. 

Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, wrote in a statement, that NEPA, “has become associated with inherent uncertainty, prolonged project delays and stifling of investment.”

Experts, meanwhile, suggest that the environmental impact review process could easily be streamlined. Redundant and outdated procedures abound throughout the environmental impact review process and could be easily eliminated without posing a danger to the environment.

It’s also important to note that “two years” is a suggested goal, not a hard and fast rule. There was no suggestion that NEPA would have any necessary regulations removed, regardless of how much time they added to the overall process.

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Chris Hohn Brings His Climate War to the States

In December, billionaire hedge fund manager Chris Hohn made headlines when he sent several very public letters to companies with which he’d invested. As the head of the charitably-named The Children’s Investment (TCI) Fund (which holds more than $28 billion in assets), the people on the receiving end of those letters were big names like Google, Microsoft, and the Canadian National Railway. 

In the letter, TCI proclaimed that it would begin to make financial decisions based on a company’s ability to combat climate change. Indeed, TCI has demanded that the companies with which it invests should “publicly disclose all of their emissions” and establish “a credible plan for their reduction.”

A Big Time Payday

Just two days after his big announcement, reports circulated that Hohn had gifted himself $261 million in dividend payments in spite of the fact that TCI only made $260 million (and endured a third straight year of diminished profits) in 2019. 

Equal pay activist Luke Hildyard lamented the payout, saying: 

“You don’t have to want to upend the entire system or have anything against Sir Chris Hohn personally to feel uncomfortable with one individual raking in £200m in a country where ordinary workers are enduring the longest period of pay stagnation since the Napoleonic wars and record numbers are resorting to food banks to feed their families.”

Behind the Center for Climate Integrity

Hohn is expected to funnel at least a portion of his year-end bonus into asserting his personal anti-energy agenda. In early January, it was reported that Hohn has moved his climate agenda to the United States. The billionaire reportedly devoted millions to sponsor US-based protest groups who are spoiling to take their fight with oil and gas companies into a courtroom.

In the past, the Center for Climate Intervention, one of the companies funded almost entirely by Chris Hohn, has fueled the fire of climate change litigation around the country. In Miami, for example, the CCI went so far as to purchase billboards meant to stir the population into pressuring civic leaders to take legal action against oil and gas companies.

The Billionaire Meddler

Hohn is expected to ramp up donations to his pocket charity over the coming year in an effort to force US oil and gas companies to bend to his will. In doing so, the foreign financial leader is actively and unrepentantly trying to impose his will on the people of another nation. 

Oil and Gas Not to Blame for Colorado’s Drone Swarms

On December 26, Coloradan Jennifer Rollins captured a minute of footage of a drone as it hovered above her home for around half an hour. A few days later, another Coloradan captured similar footage.

Throughout December, residents in northeastern Colorado and parts of Nebraska began to report similar drone sightings in the skies at night. The enigmatic machines are larger than average, with an estimated wingspan of six feet. Several citizens have reported not individual drones hovering in the skies, but entire swarms of drones flying in perfect formation. In one case, the flock numbered as many as seventeen. Sightings have only picked up frequency in the weeks since rural Coloradans began to call authorities, but authorities remain stumped. 

The lack of information has given rise to several conspiracy theories about the origin of the drones, chief among them the (incorrect) belief that the oil and gas industry is behind the mystery.

The Colorado Boogeyman

It would seem that the venom being aimed at the Colorado oil and gas industry isn’t restricted to the courtroom. Perhaps that explains why one of the most popular conspiracy theories used to define the drones is that an oil and gas company is using them for a secretive mapping project.

Here’s one tweet from a nervous Coloradan.

Of course, there’s no proof (or reason) for the oil and gas industry to be behind the mysterious drone appearances. In fact, as much as the niche group of anti-energy advocates would love some proof of oil’s part in the mystery, there is none.

Colorado Oil and Gas Association spokesperson Jake Taylor soundly dismissed the possibility that oil and gas had a guiding hand in the phenomenon. The New York Times also poked a hole in the “survey theory” with one logical question: if they’re looking at the land, why are the drones only appearing at night? Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to do their fly-bys during the day?

Anxiety in Eastern Colorado

To date, even a federal investigation has not yielded results. The mystery of Colorado’s drones remains unsolved. Efforts to uncover the culprit are about to step up, however. On Thursday, Colorado governor Jared Polis pledged to begin his own investigation.

Until then, residents of eastern Colorado will have to turn their cameras to the sky in the hopes of unraveling the mystery.