Reforming environmental review to build a cleaner and brighter future

By Eli Dourado

Published:

Now more than ever, it’s time to build. Our electrical grid is fraying, and our bridges and roads need reinforcement. We need new high-speed rail lines to connect our cities and new wind farms to produce carbon-free energy. From Silicon Valley heavyweights to Green New Deal-toting congresswomen, everyone agrees that now is the time to upgrade our physical environment.

With a new regulation released this month, the Trump administration joined the action. For decades, the biggest obstacle to federal infrastructure development has been the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This Nixon-era law requires federal agencies to release a detailed statement of environmental effects any time they take a major action that will affect the human environment. Over time, this simple requirement has morphed into endless paperwork and litigation. An average environmental impact statement, which must be completed before the government can approve an action, is 669 pages and takes 4.5 years. Legal battles can make the review drag on even longer.

The administration’s revised regulations streamline the process. They enforce a soft limit on the page count and the timeline. They make it easier for agencies to share the work they’ve done to document lack of environmental harms. And they codify the holdings of two unanimous Supreme Court cases with respect to the scope of effects that must be considered.

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CGO scholars and fellows frequently comment on a variety of topics for the popular press. The views expressed therein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Growth and Opportunity or the views of Utah State University.