For more than half a century, developers have had to contend with environmental regulations that are heavy on paperwork but not much else. Over the years, the regulations have become even more burdensome as businesses engaged in building projects like pipelines and dams have had to file environmental impact statements that must take into account every conceivable threat to wildlife and the environment.
It wouldn’t be so bad if green groups didn’t abuse the law by challenging almost every project in court, citing some threat or another to snail darters or frogs. It not only added billions of dollars over the years to many projects but has also stopped several worthy developments that would have benefited the people.
The Trump administration is proposing to change the rules to speed up construction of big projects like pipelines and dams by streamlining the process. Green groups will wail about “gutting” the regulations but, in fact, it will re-establish a balance between the need for environmental protection and the need for intelligent use of the land.
“The United States can’t compete and prosper if a bureaucratic system holds us back from building what we need,” Trump said at the White House in announcing the proposed regulatory rollback, surrounded by Cabinet secretaries, industry leaders and workers in hard hats.
The current rules are designed to put so many roadblocks in the way of development that it’s a lot harder than it should be to get federal approval for certain projects.
That National Environmental Policy Act required federal agencies to consider whether a project would harm the air, land, water or wildlife. It also gave the public, including people living in the neighborhood around a proposed dam, pipeline or other big project, the right of review and input. Congress said at the time that the nation was moving to “fulfill the responsibilities of each generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations.″
Trump, who has targeted environmental rules in his drive to ease the way for business, said Thursday that enforcement of the law had slowed federal approval of projects. “America’s most critical infrastructure projects have been tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process,″ he said. “The builders are not happy. Nobody’s happy.″
Despite what the greens and Democrats are saying, these proposed rule changes would not allow businesses to ignore the environment when developing a project. They will streamline the process to speed up construction, saving millions of dollars.
Key among the changes proposed is one that would newly limit the requirement for federal environmental review to projects that have major federal funding.
The change would mean a range of predominantly privately funded and managed projects would not fall under the law’s requirement for federal environmental study and for public review and comment.
Other changes including giving federal agencies no more than two years to evaluate any environmental impact of a project.
Sometimes it appears that greens believe environmental regulations are holy writ and it’s a sacrilege to alter one single word or comma. They are — or should be — a work in progress, changing as times change, throwing out what doesn’t work or isn’t necessary. The Trump administration is showing Americans that we can protect the environment without gutting job-creating industries and projects.