Second maybe to only Utah for creative ways to privatize federal lands, the State of Wyoming has come up with another scheme. This article reports on “a conversation between Gov. Mark Gordon and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt about how Wyoming could assume a role that’s now the purview of federal agencies.”
“The notion here would be could the state have more of a primary role in establishing the beginning steps of [the] NEPA [process],” Gordon told WyoFile in late March. “In other words, could the state organize the NEPA effort and kind of walk through it and deliver [results]” to a federal agency.
Following Gordon’s lead, the Wyoming Legislature expects to study over the next nine months “state primacy and oversight of environmental assessments and environmental impact statements …”
“The Committee would study enacting a legislative framework to assert primacy over these [environmental impact] assessments,” the Legislature’s assignment reads. The goal is “a memorandum of understanding with the Department of the Interior to assume the responsibilities of these assessments that are currently required under the National Environmental Policy Act,” state documents say.
The states are already given a front row seat in federal NEPA processes, and the federal government can contract for NEPA services; it is the apparently new concept of “primacy” that is going to run into legal problems. It’s not clear from the examples provided whether the issue is decision-making authority, or to get “more of this work done in a timely manner.” If it’s the latter, I’m sure the feds would be happy to have state volunteers or state dollars (but isn’t this the focus of the “Good Neighbor” program?), though increased legal scrutiny of potentially biased NEPA products should be expected. If “primacy” means “the final word” on anything in a NEPA product they should probably spend their committee time elsewhere (like Congress).