I've written before on this, and now Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming has offered an amendment to the stimulus package to limit NEPA environmental review of infrastructure projects to 270 days. Naturally, the environmental restriction organizations don't like this, and so, naturally, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California doesn't like it either. But you can't always have two good things at once, the two good things being (at least for liberals) "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects that can provide jobs real soon and environmental reviews that take forever. During the 1930s, New Dealers built amazing infrastructure projects like the Grand Coulee Dam and LaGuardia Airport that were completed in record time. That's impossible today because of environmental laws and environmental restrictionist lawsuits. If I were a senator, I would be tempted to offer an amendment similar to what I believe the Republican Congress put in the September 2006 border fence law: no environmental reviews at all. Senator Barrasso seems to be taking a position in the middle. We probably shouldn't be building big things without some environmental review. But it doesn't have to take forever. Two hundred seventy days is three quarters of a year, which seems long enough--if you really want workers to get those jobs as soon as possible.
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By Michael Barone