Environmental Reviews: Helpful (and Hurtful) to Many Ideologies

Writing at the Heritage Foundation’s blog, Nick Loris says that
the White House’s pending decision on whether to consider climate
change in federal environmental reviews amounts to "more green tape."

protected_bike_lane.jpgSan Francisco’s newest bike lanes: made $1 million pricier by environmental reviews. (Photo: Streetsblog SF)

Citing Republican senators’ concerns that
existing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements have
caused lengthy delays in transportation project planning, Loris writes
that adding climate change to NEPA will

guarantee that the billions in infrastructure spending in this stimulus
bill will not be spent till years after the economy has already
recovered. The money that will be spent in the near-term won’t be spent
efficiently; it will be spent overcoming unnecessary regulatory hurdles …

One wonders if Heritage would describe the three-year delay in San Francisco’s planned bike lanes, caused by local bike critic Rob Anderson’s request for a full environmental review, qualifies as an "unnecessary regulatory hurdle." Streetsblog San Francisco reported that the final price tag for the city’s review topped $1 million.

Or how about the opponents of a car-free trial in New York’s Prospect Park, who attempted
to delay the project by pushing for an environmental review? Their
efforts would hardly meet Heritage’s definition of "green tape"
promoted by environmental advocates.

Perhaps Loris would take a different position on the northeast corridor’s failure to secure federal high-speed rail money thanks to the burdensome length of environmental reviews. Since Heritage had previously blasted
the entire high-speed rail program as "fiscal waste on the fast track,"
the group might hail any "regulatory hurdle" that standing in the way
of rail expansion.

The moral of the story: NEPA-mandated
reviews can be utilized successfully by liberals, conservatives, green
groups, highway boosters, and just about every constituency under the
sun. That’s an argument for streamlining the environmental review
process, not eliminating it.

  • patrick

    One thing they could do to streamline is to allow easily reversible projects to proceed before the EIR/S is complete. Then we’ll never have another issue like the 3 years without a single bike improvement.

  • The EIR process is currently being adjusted to consider such impacts as cancer risk due to increased auto pollution (mitigation: build alternatives to automobile transportation, which frequently don’t exist in the suburbs), as opposed annoyance due to a few second delay waiting at an intersection in your car (solution, build more bigger roads). It’s a process being reformed, better late than never, but only affordable to an incredibly rich society that is happy limiting it’s options.

  • Robo

    The problem isn’t CEQA or NEPA, it’s the myriad layers of bureaucracy that they call up. There must be a better, easier, more streamlined way to review, and also one that’s more fair.
    Jameson Canyon, highway 12, Napa & Solano Counties, more than doubling the width and capacity of a roadway in an ag/stream canyon. Neg Dec!
    Bike network in SF: Full CEQA!

  • Progressivepatriot2k

    Nick Loris will one day wake up to realize that he has devoted his considerable brain power to retrograde, damaging policies that serve his corporate Koch masters’ interests at the expense of his country’s well-being.  What a waste of intelligence.

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