According to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity, the Obama Administration has awarded over 179,000 "categorical exclusions" to federally funded stimulus projects, effectively exempting those projects from environmental oversight. Companies with spotty environmental records such as BP, Westar, ConocoPhillips and DuPont are among those whose stimulus projects are free from review under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.
The Center obtained documents that show corporate polluters often "omitted mention of health, safety and environmental violations" from their applications for exemption from NEPA because such disclosures were voluntary in the administration's stimulus grant process, and that administration officials considered such information "irrelevant".
When questioned about their decision to award exemptions to companies with dubious environmental track records, administration officials defended their actions saying that the exempted projects will boost energy efficiency and reduce pollution in the long run.
"What we are doing is providing federal funding to increase energy efficiency and increase the use of clean energy," Scott Blake Harris, the Energy Department's general counsel, who has ultimate responsibility for its NEPA decisions, told the Center. "I think that sends a good message to the entire American public, whether or not there are companies that have decided to do environmentally good things after doing bad things."