Broadband Expansion Bill Threatens Environmental and Cultural Heritage Reviews

July 27, 2023

The National Trust led a coalition of seven environmental groups in a letter of June 23 opposing H.R. 4141, a bill to eliminate all required reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) for “broad categories of broadband infrastructure development.”

The letter was addressed to the chairman (Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-WI) and ranking member (Rep. Joe Neguse, D-CO) of the House Natural Resources Committee. It was signed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Green Latinos, the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Citing a previous court decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. Circuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the letter noted that the FCC’s actions in the case of United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians v. FCC, 933 F. 3d 728, 745 (D.C. Cir. 2019) “did not meet the standard of reasoned decision-making” in its call for eliminating environmental and cultural reviews.

In addition, while acknowledging the $65 billion in federal investment in broadband in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act [P.L. 117-58] is necessary to bridge the digital divide, the letter stated that it should not come at the expense of environmental, health and cultural impacts from broadband development.

Instead, the signatories called on Congress to “focus on providing the necessary resources, staff, funding, and training to ensure that the review process for the siting of this important infrastructure is efficient and equitable” and not allow the FCC broad and sweeping powers to exercise categorical exclusions in siting broadband projects.

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