by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As Appearing on Townhall.com
Since assuming office, President Trump has maintained a sharp focus on reducing Washington’s bloated bureaucracy, fighting stifling regulations, and cutting the red tape that stifles America’s economic progress. His new plan to overhaul the complex National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a cornerstone of those efforts. That’s because NEPA has become the epitome of government inefficiency, creating what the President rightly calls a “regulatory nightmare.” Many expect the president to provide sharper detail in Tuesday’s State of the Union Address.
Enacted into law in 1970 to help fight pollution, NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impact of projects before approving or rejecting permits. Infrastructure projects also undergo an assessment of possible social and economic impacts. Important and reasonable goals, but in the 50 years since they were enacted, these guidelines have evolved into a process that bears little resemblance to that Congressional intent.
Today, the average length of a NEPA review is four and a half years, often followed by lengthy and expensive litigation. The average costto complete a review is now $4.2 million and the average environmental impact statement fills 600 pages. These endless delays, high costs and overly dense documents are an almost insurmountable deterrent to the capital investments needed to repair and modernize infrastructure – at a time when America’s roads, bridges, airports, harbors and other public works are crumbling. We need new projects to provide for a growing population and economic expansion, as well as maintaining existing facilities.