The Western Governors' Association (WGA) Tuesday called on Congress to amend provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) that allow for the categorical exclusion of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews for certain oil and natural gas drilling in wildlife corridors and crucial wildlife habitat on federal lands.

The western governors adopted a policy resolution seeking the removal of the categorical exclusion at the winter meeting of the National Governors' Association in Washington, DC. "By removing the categorical exclusion, appropriate environmental site analysis will be completed as necessary to protect crucial wildlife habitat and significant migration corridors located in the field of development," the resolution said.

Until Congress amends EPAct, the western governors asked the secretaries of the Interior Department and Agriculture Department to "consider placing a moratorium on such categorical exclusions in crucial habitat or migration corridors, and to work collaboratively with the states to ensure that states' concerns in preserving wildlife migration corridors and crucial wildlife habitats are met."

One possible way to achieve the protection of wildlife corridors and habitat, the western governors said, "would be for the federal land management agencies and the states to agree when and where additional environmental analyses and possible protections or conditions of approval need to be put in place."

The western governors said they would like to see "the federal land managers, working with the states, develop a performance-based, objective protocol for permits to drill that includes industry monitoring of how well the protocol is being met, and enforcement by the federal agencies should the monitoring determine that the protocol is not being met."

The western governors directed the WGA to work with Congress, the Bush administration and other appropriate entities to implement the policies contained in the resolution. They also directed WGA to establish a working group to oversee staff's implementation of the resolution, particularly the collaborative effort between the federal government and the states.

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