Build Back Cheaper and Faster Without NEPA

Monday, October 11, 2021

If you ever wondered why every other country in the world but ours seems to be able to build things, wonder no more...

At City Journal is an article by Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) about the negative regulatory impact (to understate it) that a Nixon-Era environmental regulation has had on our energy sector:

Hoover Dam was completed in less than half the time it took to approve work on a short stretch of Interstate 70. Image by Nathan Roser, via Unsplash, license.)
Fifty years since [the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)] was signed into law, the process has become a bureaucratic nightmare. The latest data show that completing an [Environmental Impact Study] takes four and a half years, on average. One-quarter of the statements take upward of six years. Some projects drag on even longer: the approval process for a 12-mile expansion of Interstate 70 in Denver took 13 years to complete, with a final impact statement running 8,951 pages (not including an additional 7,307 pages of appendices).

Before NEPA, projects could be completed quickly. Congress authorized the damming of the Colorado River in 1928; construction began in 1931, and the Hoover Dam was opened five years later. The federal government approved the Golden Gate Bridge in just seven months. The NEPA process would have rendered the swift completion of these projects impossible. [bold added, links omitted]
Thirteen years to approve a short stretch of a road versus less than five years from start to finish for the Hoover Dam!

If the Biden Administration were serious about improving American infrastructure, it would at a minimum consider rolling back or eliminating NEPA altogether, or perhaps even enacting the reforms Schweikert and Lee propose. (This is the first I've heard of them, so I haven't an opinion on their merits.)

If our infrastructure is worth spending $3.5 trillion on, then surely making that money go farther and the improvements faster deserve serious consideration.

-- CAV

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