Dog Bites Man: NEPA Reviews Are Getting More Complex

Stop the presses: According to the Daily Environment Report, EPA’s director of the Office of Federal Activities, Susan Bromm, has acknowledged that concerns about climate change and environmental justice are “contributing to the size, cost, and time-consuming nature of environmental impact statements….” Nonetheless, Ms. Bromm apparently asserted that these "analyses do not have to be overwhelming,” and she blamed, at least in part, agencies which “overreact to the fear of litigation.”

Not surprisingly, a speaker on the same panel from DOT felt otherwise. According to Helen Serassio, an attorney at DOT:

We’ve gotten to the point where they’re kind of out of control.

Ya’ think?

The notion that agencies are overdoing environmental reviews under NEPA because they are unreasonably concerned with potential litigation would strike many as absurd. It’s so easy for a judge, who doesn’t want to be the one who approved a nuclear plant that later has some kind of disaster, to say that the EIS wasn’t sufficiently thorough. For any worst case analysis, there’s always something worse, and for any nervous judge, it’s just too easy to ask for that additional analysis.

What’s lost from the discussion is any perspective, any sense that compliance with NEPA costs money and that delay of important projects imposes its own set of costs. I’m a supporter of NEPA. The requirement to assess environmental consequences of federal decisions certainly improves those decisions. However, those reviews do come with costs attached and, from where I sit, the judicial thumb is firmly on the side of more review at this point, without regard to any kind of cost-benefit analysis. As Ms. Serassio said:

We’ve gotten to the point where they’re kind of out of control.

One thought on “Dog Bites Man: NEPA Reviews Are Getting More Complex

  1. I am a citizen near Tehachapi, CA and can hear hundreds of turbines and have had my night sky stripped from me in the last 2 years. Six years ago when I move to my canyon location the small turbines were mostly inactive (rumored to not be tied to transmission lines.) The small turbines are in the process of being replaced with just
    The people in this country at every level need to get our heads on straight to stop the rush for new energy and do it with care and forethought, strict oversight with zero tolerace for political, profit driven or lobbyist influence in determining the courses of action for future energy. Worldwide, the people are at the edge of tolerance for any more of this nonsense against the masses. We are being cornered into action.
    Thank you for your time.

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