Saturday, July 09, 2005

More attacks on environmental laws

Accordig to the LA Times, the National Environmental Policy Act Is 'at a Crossroads':
NEPA is facing strong challenges from the Bush administration, Congress and business interests who say the law has been holding up progress on a number of fronts, among them building highways, preventing forest fires and drilling for oil and gas in the Rocky Mountains.

The House version of the pending energy bill would exempt many oil and gas exploration projects from NEPA review. And a congressional committee is holding public hearings with the stated intention of changing how the law works. To expedite a wide range of projects, the administration and lawmakers have exempted some categories of federal actions from NEPA assessments or limited their scope.

The three-page statute, known as the Magna Carta of environmental law, required the government for the first time to involve the public in decisions that could harm natural surroundings or disturb neighborhoods. The law has been imitated by other countries and many states.

For the first time, the law guaranteed the public information and a forum on many matters directly affecting their lives. "It affects the air they breathe, the water they drink, their recreational resources and the views they enjoy," said Lucy Swartz, a former government lawyer who now serves on the board of the National Assn. of Environmental Professionals.

However, those calling for changes to NEPA say the law has made it far too easy for environmentalists and others to mount legal challenges over technicalities. "It has been used as a stick in the spokes of the wheels of progress," said Russ Brooks, an attorney for the property rights-oriented Pacific Legal Foundation.
Ed Abbey once wrote that "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell." It's not necessarily an awful thing if growth is moderated to ensure that society's needs aren't harmed by precipitous action. One can see how useful NEPA is by reviewing the records at NEPAblog.