Updated: Feb 28, 2020
Regulatory review delayed is property rights denied.
Regulatory takings, both de facto (e.g., Obama’s Waters of the United States overreach) and by slow, costly bureaucratic procedures (e.g., NEPA environmental reviews), diminish our private property rights. They also bog down free enterprise.
That’s why President Trump’s deregulatory initiatives are so important. This administration has set a reset button that’s improving things in many highly regulated sectors of our economy. The results show up in people reentering the job market in droves, high employment levels, solid wage growth for our fellow Americans of humble but honorable background and new opportunities for the high school-educated, minorities and women. Blue collar’s back, baby!
The latest regulatory reset involves the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, which became law in 1970. Back then, ecologists (ideological forefathers of today’s environmentalist zealots) warned of climate change, a population explosion they claimed would cause global starvation and pollution they asserted was threatening human and (their priority) animal and plant existence. Their solution: centralized global government — Green Raw Deal meets Socialist Utopia. As one ecological advocate put it, “We will be forced to sacrifice democracy by the laws that will protect us from further pollution."
In other words, expropriating individuals’ God-given private property rights, giving them to an elite cadre of global overlords who’d centrally plan, command and control every decision affecting people’s lives. Think the lunacy of California government, socialist Venezuela or the defunct Soviet Union, where it was said Russians pretended to work and the communist government pretended to pay them.
NEPA is supposed to guide environmental review procedures across government agencies, ensuring greater uniformity, reduced paperwork burden and greater timeliness. Five decades later, these goals aren’t being met.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality reports that environmental impact statements average more than 4.5 years; they’re supposed to take a year. Draft EISs average 586 pages; they’re supposed to run 150 pages or up to 300 pages in exceptional cases. Agencies demand duplicative efforts and exceed the statutory requirements. These become regulatory takings. They cause adverse environmental and economic impacts from the long delays and exorbitant extra costs of stalled projects.
CEQ has proposed new rules streamlining NEPA reviews of various federal projects such as highways, waterways and other infrastructure. They make NEPA reviews consistent with E.O. 13807’s One Federal Decision policy. They impose deadlines and page limits. They clarify terms so as to promote practicality and remove bureaucratic excess. They improve transparency and accountability, as well as give a lead agency the ability to manage and expedite the review process.
The NEPA reform proposal is open for public comment until March 10. Conservatives for Property Rights will file comments in favor of CEQ’s proposed rule.