Coalition forms to defend Trump NEPA overhaul

By Kelsey Brugger | 01/14/2020 01:25 PM EST

President Trump announcing proposed changes to National Environmental Policy Act rules last week.

President Trump announcing proposed changes to National Environmental Policy Act rules last week. The White House/Flickr

Advocates have formed a second coalition to push President Trump’s plan to retool rules governing the nation’s landmark environmental law.

Republican operative Phil Cox formed Building a Better America to generate support for the administration’s plans to rewrite regulations surrounding the National Environmental Policy Act. Cox says the coalition will spend several million dollars fighting environmentalists who have derided Trump’s plan.

"The traditional lobbying in Washington is important, but we need a holistic approach," Cox told E&E News in an interview. "We are going to work to shape the environment — not only here in D.C. but, more importantly, around the country."


The White House’s proposed NEPA rule changes could ax climate considerations from federal actions on projects like oil pipelines, highways and bridges.

Proponents, including the oil and gas and wind power industries, say the changes are a long-overdue update to streamline an exhaustive environmental review process. The League of Conservation Voters pledged to "fight like hell" to stop Trump’s changes (E&E Daily, Jan. 10).

Cox said greens are "certainly incredibly well funded." He said, "I think you are going to see them put pressure on Congress and file comments in opposition."

Cox’s plan is to get ahead of environmentalists and educate American workers, unions and small business owners on the benefits of reforming NEPA rules.

He also wants to encourage them to file favorable comments with the Council on Environmental Quality. "We want to make sure their voices are heard here in Washington and around the country," Cox said.

He declined to disclose his donors but said he has already raised $2.5 million from "a diverse group of small business folks."

Cox has been executive director to the Republican Governors Association and development director at Americans for Prosperity. He has run countless Republican congressional campaigns throughout the country. The Boston Globe described him as a "force for the GOP."

Now a partner at lobby firm GuidePost Strategies, Cox has a range of clients, including BMW, British American Tobacco and Trade Works for America, a coalition that pushed for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

But this coalition will not be as focused on Capitol Hill.

Cox said he aims to show the White House that support exists before the proposal’s public comment period ends March 10. He also plans to run TV and digital ads. The Hill newspaper first reported on the group.

His effort is unrelated to a coalition formed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s group includes more than 30 oil and gas, wind energy, and farming trade associations like the Edison Electric Institute, American Petroleum Institute, American Farm Bureau Federation and National Association of Home Builders (E&E News PM, Jan. 9).

"Coalitions can be incredibly effective," wrote Christopher Guith of the Chamber’s energy policy institute. "They are a great way to demonstrate the breadth and diversity of groups with a common cause."

Cox said groups like the Chamber have a "very important role to play." "We are looking forward to partnering and working with them," he said.