City Journal | Invisible Wall

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Last month, the Trump administration proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, a nearly 50-year-old law that enforces burdensome environmental-impact standards on infrastructure projects. Administration opponents condemned Trump’s proposal, warning that any reform to NEPA would have devastating consequences. Yet Republicans and Democrats alike have criticized NEPA’s restrictive regulations for decades, objecting to how its seemingly endless approval process delays needed projects at all levels of government.

I was reminded of NEPA’s reach when I found out what was delaying the restoration of a seawall in Rye, New York, where I live. This spring, construction workers should finally complete the wall, which adjoins a beach near my neighborhood. The project dates to 2012, when Hurricane Sandy swept away stones and mortar of the century-old wall. Ever since, my wife and I have stopped short of the waterside view on our evening walks.