Talking Points on the need for NEPA reform

By Alex Epstein

As the infrastructure deal moves forward, it is important to keep pointing out that we still need NEPA reform--and that without it, infrastructure can't improve very much. Here are my talking points on NEPA.

The biggest obstacle to improving infrastructure is NEPA--the National Environmental Policy Act--which will continue strangling infrastructure development unless it is radically reformed. Unfortunately, our supposedly infrastructure-loving President opposes NEPA reform.

  • ​​I recently shared a thread about how NEPA--the National Environmental Policy Act--was strangling the construction of highways. But the problem is far broader than highways. NEPA in its current form makes everything worse.1
  • An outstanding piece of journalism by Leandra Bernstein documents the mass-destruction of NEPA today, the Trump Administration's infrastructure-expediting reforms, and the Biden administration's rejection of those reforms.2
  • Despite Joe Biden’s professed enthusiasm for infrastructure, "there has been virtually no discussion of one of the most frustrating aspects of building infrastructure in the United States: the regulations that often turn a two-year project into a decade-long endeavor."
  • "Industry advocates are warning that the potential benefits of Biden's massive infrastructure investment plan could be offset by the lengthy, complex approval process required to build almost any significant project in the United States."
  • "If the two points of the president's initiative are to build infrastructure and to stimulate economic activity, having those funds tied up in an endless, Kafkaesque regulatory process certainly doesn't meet either objective." -- Brian Turmail, AGCofA
  • "China famously retrofitted a major bridge in Beijing in less than two days. In the Netherlands, crews of construction workers built an entire highway overpass in a weekend."
  • "At the current pace of construction, it would take the United States 80 years to repair all of its structurally deficient bridges."
  • "...the Transportation Department takes nearly seven years to conduct an environmental impact study for a Federal Highway Administration project. The Interior Department takes five years, on average, to prepare an environmental impact statement."
  • "The main things that are delaying projects are the rules and regulations. They make everything more expensive. We need something to protect taxpayers and the environment. We need something else." -- Randall O'Toole, Cato Institute
  • "it took 13 years to complete the environmental impact study for the expansion of 12 miles of the I-70 highway near Denver. NEPA requirements and local opposition delayed a 16-mile light rail transit project outside of Washington, D.C. for 14 years."
  • "A few months before leaving office, Trump finalized a rule to reform NEPA for the first time over 40 years. The rule set a two-year limit for an environmental impact statement and narrowed the number of projects that would be submitted to stringent environmental scrutiny."
  • The day that Trump's much-needed NEPA reform was finalized, "then-candidate Biden released a climate agenda that called for the repeal of Trump's environmental policies, including the NEPA reforms." That is, our infrastructure-obsessed president ruined infrastructure reform.
  • "We would hope that this administration would look at [Trump NEPA] reforms not in a political way but look at the way that they improved the process...they'll find there are real improvements to complicated regulatory processes..." -- Nick Goldstein, @ARTBA
  • The fundamental obstacle to NEPA reform, as well as to energy progress, is the anti-development ideology that pervades the Biden Administration and much of Congress, as I explained in my Congressional testimony this week.3