Along with its regulatory reforms, the Trump administration has also sought to unleash the American economy by streamlining the federal permitting process for major infrastructure projects like roads and pipelines. A key component of this effort was finalized today in the form of a rule making key changes and clarifications to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Enacted in 1970 and intended to be a straightforward assessment of the environmental impacts of proposed projects requiring federal action, NEPA has metastasized into a weapon used by environmental obstructionists to delay unwanted roads, bridges, electric transmission lines, pipelines, ports, and other infrastructure projects. As a result, the Environmental Impact Statements required for major projects take four and half years on average and nearly every final decision is challenged in federal court, leading to further delays. In some cases, the delays are so great that project developers are forced to give up entirely.