Dingell slams environmental impact cut in fishery bill

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — House lawmakers on Monday rejected an attempt by Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Dearborn to preserve requirements for environmental analysis under proposed changes to federal fishing laws.

Dingell's husband, former Rep. John Dingell who retired last year, wrote the National Environmental Policy Act in 1970 that requires agencies to assess the environmental, social and economic impacts of their actions and consider alternatives.

Legislation under consideration in the House would revise the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in part by exempting fishery management decisions from the act.

The bill "would short circuit public review and comment on fisheries management decisions," Debbie Dingell said Monday on the House floor.

"The practical impact of this language means that local communities and businesses will not have the same opportunity to comment and have input on decisions that will impact their livelihood."

Supporters of the bill say it would give fishery managers greater flexibility in rebuilding fish stocks and eliminate duplication between the National Environmental Policy Act process and an impact analysis for the regional fishery management councils.

"This was requested by the communities," said bill sponsor Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, in opposition to Dingell's amendment, adding that the 1970 law invites outsiders and special interests into the review process.

"What you do is start a duplication of the process. It's not necessary."

Dingell said the bill would introduce an "inadequate, poorly defined" process that makes the fisheries councils the final arbiters of how their own decisions would affect coastal communities and marine ecosystems. The opinions of stakeholders, including business owners, would receive less consideration, she said.

The White House has promised to veto the bill, saying it would undermine safeguards against overfishing and "impose arbitrary and unnecessary requirements that would harm the environment and the economy."

The House on Monday defeated Dingell's amendment by a vote of 223-155.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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