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.