U.S. Hispanic Business Council Opposes United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Re-Review of Nationwide Permit 12

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The United States Hispanic Business Council (USHBC) issued the following statement regarding comments filed by the USHBC and other business groups in opposition to the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) notice that it would be reviewing and considering wholesale changes to Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP-12). NWP-12 is a permit issued by the Corps that provides streamlined approval for minor oil and gas pipeline projects that have been determined not to pose significant environmental impacts. The Corps reviewed and re-issued the permit in January 2021.

USHB

Energy issues are crucial to the USHBC’s mission in three main respects. First, the energy sector is a crucial source of direct and indirect employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for Hispanic-Americans.

Right now, there are approximately 30,000,000 employed Hispanics making up 19% of the total 157,000,000 Americans in the workforce. And of the 30,000,000 employed Hispanics, 8,797,393 (30%) are employed in the energy sector and/or a set of directly impacted industries including: Oil, Gas and Other Energies, Agriculture, Construction, Manufacturing and Transportation. Second, higher energy prices operate as an “invisible tax” on all businesses – but they bite particularly hard on small businesses and new business owners. Every dollar spent on fuel, and every dollar lost to higher delivery prices, is a dollar that can’t be invested in our businesses, hiring more people, raising wages for existing employees, or expanding our operations. And third, skyrocketing prices at the pump are the most regressive form of inflation imaginable. Upper-income Americans won’t feel much pain; those who are just starting to build their own American dream will.

“It is incomprehensible that the United States Army Corps of Engineers would choose this time to initiate a discretionary re-review of Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12). NWP 12 is a crucial tool that allows for expedited approval of minor oil and gas pipeline activities that the Corps has determined will have no, or minimal, environmental impacts. It’s important to remember that the Clean Water Act expressly allows the Corps to take this approach, and that federal courts have repeatedly upheld it, and just last year the Corps completed the required five-year review and reissued the permit with a careful consideration of environmental and other factors as required by federal law,” said Javier Palomarez, President & CEO of USHBC. “This sort of capricious rule making threatens the very livelihood of hard working Americans, because it kills jobs in critical industries.”

“Our nation needs an abundant, reliable, and affordable supply of all forms of energy. Especially in this moment of crisis, with Russia using its own energy resources to blackmail and bully our European allies. We support President Biden’s commitment to help Ukraine and our allies push back against Russia. To do so, they will need help to replace Russia’s energy with cleaner gas and other fuel from the United States and other responsible players. To give them that help, we must maintain a robust American energy infrastructure,” said Don Salazar, USHBC Chairman of the Board.

“The Corps has arbitrarily decided to reopen the permit for further review, years before the 2026 deadline. This calls into doubt the Corps’ commitment to the permit, and this will deter needed energy infrastructure investment, slow important projects, and render us less able to achieve energy security at home and abroad. The Corps should commit to leaving the permit in place until 2026, and focus on its mission of protecting our nation’s waters while allowing for responsible infrastructure development,” said Palomarez.

About the United States Hispanic Business Council

The United States Hispanic Business Council (USHBC) is a voice for the Hispanic business community. A 501(c)6 non-profit organization, the USHBC focuses on improving access to contracting in the public and private sector, fair representation of Hispanics in business, media, and politics and ensuring Hispanics have a voice in the national dialogue.

NOTE: Comments as Submitted Below

May 25th, 2022

to:

The Honorable Michael Connor

Assistant Secretary

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Washington DC 20314

cc:

Honorable Gabe Camarillo
Under Secretary

David R. Cooper
Chief Counsel

U.S. Army

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Washington DC 20310

Washington DC 20314

Comments submitted on behalf of the United States Hispanic Business Council, Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Texas Association of Business, Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Utah’s Latinoamerican Chamber of Commerce, Florida Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce Inc., Brazoria County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey in response to the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) Federal Register publication titled Notice of Virtual Public and Tribal Meetings Regarding the Review of Nationwide Permit 12; Establishment of a Public Docket; Request for Input, 87 Fed. Reg. 17,281 (Mar. 28, 2022), Docket ID No. COE–2022–0003 (Review Notice).

I submit these comments in my role as the President and CEO of the United States Hispanic Business Council (USHBC). We are a 501(c)6 nonprofit organization focusing on improving access to contracting in the public and private sector and fair representation of Hispanics in business, media, and politics.

Energy issues are crucial to USHBC’s mission in three main respects. First, the energy sector is a crucial source of direct and indirect employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for Hispanic-Americans.

Right now, there are approximately 30,000,000 employed Hispanics making up 19% of the total 157,000,000 Americans in the workforce. And of the 30,000,000 employed Hispanics, 8,797,393 (30%) are employed in the energy sector and/or a set of directly impacted industries including: Oil, Gas and Other Energies, Agriculture, Construction, Manufacturing and Transportation. Second, higher energy prices operate as an “invisible tax” on all businesses – but they bite particularly hard on small businesses and new business owners. Every dollar spent on fuel, and every dollar lost to higher delivery prices, is a dollar that can’t be invested in our businesses, hiring more people, raising wages for existing employees, or expanding our operations. And third, skyrocketing prices at the pump are the most regressive form of inflation imaginable. Upper-income Americans won’t feel much pain; those who are just starting to build their own American dream will.

We strongly oppose the Corps reopening Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) for review at this time. The nationwide permit is a crucial mechanism for maintaining a robust American energy infrastructure. It ensures that pipeline projects that have only a minimal environmental impact can be approved and carried out quickly, which protects our natural resources while ensuring that we can responsibly and flexibly harness our energy resources. The Corps has no legal obligation to take this step now. It just recently concluded the required five-year review cycle, and in fact it is defending NWP 12 in court.

However, the Corps has now suggested that every material aspect of NWP 12 is back up for review. The questions that the Review Notice poses suggests the Corps may alter the nationwide permit in ways that contradict the entire point of having this kind of categorical pre-approval for projects with minimal impact. The Corps has asked for public input on, among other things, the following: Should the permit be revised to discriminate against new construction as compared to maintenance of existing facilities?

Should the permit be revised to discriminate against oil pipelines as compared to gas pipelines?

Should the Corps insert a second round of public notice and comment at the back end, even though the entire point of issuing these nationwide permits as a notice and comment rule in the first place is to avoid unnecessary delays at the individual project stage?

The answer to all of these questions is the same answer that the Corps just reached in January 2021 and which the Department of Justice is currently, and rightly, arguing in court: No. In fact, NWP 12 is fully legal and sufficiently protects the environment. The Clean Water Act specifically allows the Corps to issue this type of general permit where it finds that the activities authorized will have only minimal impacts. The Corps did make that finding little over a year ago, in a thorough and careful rulemaking process with full public input. All that has changed over the past year is that our energy security is now much more under threat than ever before – making NWP 12 all the more important, and the Corps’ Review Notice all the more inappropriate,  irresponsible,  and even harmful.

Russia’s war on Ukraine shines a spotlight on the connection between energy security and national security. Russia has been emboldened to take its egregious actions largely because Europe is dependent on Russian energy. President Biden has rightly rallied the West to reject this energy blackmail, and specifically promised that we will help our European allies find other sources of liquified natural gas and other fuels. At the same time, the sanctions on Russian energy that the West has been compelled to impose have supercharged the pre-existing problems of general inflation, energy-specific inflation, and supply chain disruption.

The answer to these related international and domestic concerns is the same: we must ensure an abundant domestic supply of energy and the infrastructure to deliver it at home and abroad. Nationwide Permit 12 helps do that. This unnecessary Review Notice does the opposite. Anyone who thought they could rely on NWP 12 to plan and carry out needed energy infrastructure projects now has to wonder whether the Corps will pull the rug out from under them. The five-year review cycle that Congress established in the Clean Water Act is a careful balancing of the need for periodic environmental review on the one hand, and the need for certainty in infrastructure development on the other. Short-circuiting the review cycle four years before its time is due distracts from the Corps’ mission and chills needed infrastructure investments.

We understand that President Biden has announced a national policy of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and increasing our use of renewable energy. This is a worthy goal, and these comments should not be understood to oppose it. But these long-term policies of shifting the balance of our energy sector have to be carefully planned and deliberately executed in a responsible and clear manner. At this moment of crisis, the Review Notice represents the opposite of the needed approach. It is a solution looking for a problem. The Corps should withdraw its Review Notice and make it clear that it will not proceed with review until it is legally required to do so.

Respectfully submitted,

Javier Palomarez

President & CEO, United States Hispanic Business Council

Cision

Cision

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SOURCE U.S. Hispanic Business Council