What’s the Hold Up? On Key Infrastructure, Too Often It’s NEPA
Posted January 30, 2020
Further down in this post take a look at just a few of the important U.S. infrastructure projects that have been held up by the review processes directed by the current National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
As noted in Sam Winstel’s post earlier this month, NEPA reform proposals recently offered by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) are sorely needed. Some of the projects below are not just years on hold, but decades. And NEPA affects all kinds of infrastructure development, not just our industry’s projects. House Democrats, who just unveiled a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure proposal this week, should take note.
CEQ proposals would improve NEPA permitting and approval processes on energy and other vital infrastructure projects while still ensuring the appropriate environmental assessments and protections are undertaken.
API and a number of other organizations – including representatives of the agriculture, construction and steel sectors, as well as labor unions – are members of Unlock American Investment, a coalition of groups that supports NEPA’s intent but also its modernization. From the coalition’s website:
We fully support the fundamental goal of NEPA to ensure appropriate consideration of the potential environmental impacts of federal actions. However, NEPA has not been updated in 40 years, creating delays and hurting economic growth. It’s time to modernize. Modernizing NEPA will unlock American investment in modern, efficient infrastructure, creating middle-class sustaining jobs while advancing good environmental stewardship.
Think about it: NEPA’s regulations haven’t been updated since 1978, and in a number of cases it is impeding significant infrastructure development – which is a drag on growth and progress. In the energy sector alone, it has been estimated that investments of between $1 trillion and $1.34 trillion are needed through 2035 to keep pace with rising demand:
Unfortunately, NEPA’s review processes too often are used to block needed infrastructure development. The resulting cost uncertainty and endless timelines can make projects financially unfeasible, and the American people are worse off for it. Again, this isn’t just about natural gas and oil projects. See API’s NEPA fact sheet, here. Analysis shows that it takes nearly six years, on average, to complete an Environmental Impact Statement under NEPA, costing an average of $4.2 million:
Here’s a list of current projects that are being delayed by NEPA review, from the Unlock American Investment website. As discussions on NEPA reforms continue, we’ll provide updates.
New Mexico – Taos Regional Airport Improvements
- Expansion project would increase planes based in Taos by 75%, enhance runway accessibility for pilots to improve safety and pilot confidence.
- Delayed 20.4 years
- $25 million investment – funded almost entirely by the Federal Aviation Administration
Massachusetts – Vineyard Wind Project
- 800-megawatt offshore wind farm, part of a larger project to spur $70 billion in investments in wind energy, with enough capacity to power 400,000 homes
- Delayed 2 years
- $2.8 billion potential investment
Colorado – Upper Fryingpan Vegetation Management Project
- Vegetation management plan of 1,631 acres to improve forest resiliency and animal habitat in the central part of the state, north of Aspen.
- Delayed 3+ years
Michigan – Grand Haven Traffic Congestion Improvement
- Two-lane roadway and bridge project to mitigate traffic by providing a route for an additional 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles daily in the city along Lake Michigan, west of Grand Rapids.
- Delayed 16 years
- $170 million
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.