A guest post by Aidan Mackenzie and Santi Ruiz
That first point is incomprehensible to me, "NEPA doesn't slow projects down because it only adds 3 years to timelines", 3 years is a long time?! Although the entire Roosevelt Institute summary of their climate work is about anti-racism so I guess it makes sense if their climate goals are unrelated to the climate
"She points out that the median time for the U.S. Forest Service to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) — the most rigorous type of NEPA review — is only 2.8 years"
Honestly, I kind of stopped reading once I realized that the author actually believes that "only 2.8 years" is a DEFENSE of NEPA instead of a CONDEMNATION of it. I applaud you for engaging with these authors in good faith, but I sincerely doubt that their arguments were in good faith in the first place.
A vast build out is not needed if we simply replace fossil fuel generators with nuclear power. Only upgrades will be needed.
It would be incredibly cheap and fast if we had rational regulation, which values a life lost to radioactivity the same as a life lost to other pollutants. At the moment a life lost to radioactivity is valued AT LEAST 100 times more. Changing this regulation will cost nothing.
I appreciate that the author on focused on his very narrow realm of "clean energy", but NEPA and CEQA (California's version) make absolutely every project vastly more expensive.
"But progressive advocates of green industrial policy have been stubbornly slow to realize that NEPA stands in the way of their dreams."
The modern Left is full of contradictions: global warming protestors who hate nuclear power; Harvard grads railing against elitism; educated whites demanding that cops abandon minority neighborhoods; anti-Iraq-war protestors who are now Ukraine hawks; a climate czar who regularly flies a private jet. The unifying belief of the left today is the maintenance of the professional managerial class at the expense of everyone else. NEPA is part of that, since it provides lots of make-work for their useless college graduates.
I'm reminded of an old quote by Newt Gingrich, who was a WWII historian before joining Congress: "December 7th 1941 to August 14th, 1945 is less than 4 years. In less than 4 years, we defeated Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan. Today it takes 23 years to add a 5th runway to the Atlanta airport. We are simply not prepared, today, to be a serious country." He gave that speech in 2008; things haven't improved since.
"the U.S. is practically the only country to allow local NIMBYs the opportunity to tie up fully legally compliant projects in court for years over purely procedural requirements. "
Not true. Canada has NEPA beat by several magnitudes, albeit through different mechanisms. The duty to consult indigenous groups in Canada is used as a limitless stalling tactic on legally compliant projects of almost any size. Such groups now include anyone claiming to be Metis with scant evidence, and opposition can be funded by anyone, often foreign interest groups.
Virtually all major new projects are now impossible in Canada: transmission lines, pipelines, mines, roads, reactors. The average delay of replacement projects (e.g. more reactors on an existing site) or smaller but significant projects has stretched beyond a decade. I've been involved in green projects that have been delayed by nearly 30 years, with no end in sight.
The hidden graveyard covers the landscape.
There are exceptions to the above, such as when a government eliminated non-indigenous NIMBY actions for wind and solar projects. But that was a political blunder and ultimately part of an energy/economic disaster, which couldn't be sustained.
One of the rare good things about the climate panic and all the money being shoveled into doing something about it is how at least now some light is being shed on how excessive government regulation is harming the path to progress. We need more energy (as well as more people, technological advancement and infrastructure) and we won’t get much of it with NEPA, NRC and FDA holding back progress as they do now with their enormous regulatory roadblocks.
The arguments defending NEPA are so transparently horrible, I'm going to automatically assume anything produced by the Roosevelt Institute to be suspicious.
A good essay. Truly strange times we live in, that it's the progressives trying to build outrage against government red tape and get it ripped down so the energy industry can get to work. I wonder what, if anything, there is to learn from how the legacy energy industries have fought that bureaucracy?
I would also wonder whether any of the conceptual ideas for fixing things, tossed out in the last few paragraphs, have made their way to some sort of legislative proposal that is working to build attention and consensus.
Call me crazy, but maybe we should have thought about this before we signed up for $540bn? All the trees will burn before the Forest Service finishes all of these reviews.
The level of dysfunction in NEPA is actually disgusting. I fervently hope we get it overhauled soon.
On that note, anyone have thoughts on how it could be reformed? Would it be Congressional legislation? Is this something we should be writing to our House and Senate representatives about?
Ah, this article reminds me of the time I had NEPA used by a competitor to try and keep me from driving on a dirt road. Once. Behind a dump truck. At an active quarry.
Reform it. I can almost guarantee that the number of projects that get strangled out by bureaucracy and weaponization of the bureaucracy before they even start the multi-year clock for a review is probably orders of magnitude larger.
It seems like keeping NEPA might actually have some benefits - it keeps the discussions in federal courts. If you remove it, and if states replace it, then you're left with the fun issue that the planned energy transition largely means building out wind and solar farms plus associated transmission capacity in "red" states and regions to serve "blue" ones. That seems likely to be contentious regardless of NEPA, but at least NEPA keeps the discussion at a higher level of the political system.
Though maybe some thought and empathy should be given to *why* people don't want these projects near them.
Robert Bryce has a renewable rejection database that shows NEPA and NIMBY ‘success’ stories.
Who runs NEPA - where does the funding come from? What is its allegiance?
What is the alternative to NEPA? Carbon impact review?