Recently, House Members have added a provision to the Omnibus bill that “allows the Interior Department to withdraw two Endangered Species Act rules (one on Section 7 consultation and another on polar bears) within 60 days of enactment.” There are two key questions to be addressed under this provision. 1.) What does this mean for global warming policy and 2.) What does this mean for infrastructure spending projects designed to stimulate the economy?
Let’s begin with the stimulus. In a plan that was intended to be quick and temporary, Congress passed a $787 billion stimulus plan, which included large sums of money to fund infrastructure projects. Never mind the plausibility of the stimulus package, standing in the way of quick investment projects are years’ worth of environmental regulatory tape.
Normally it takes a federal construction projects an average of 4.4 years to complete a National Environmental Protection Act review. Throw in the Clean Water Act’s section 404 requirements, and before a single shovel can hit the earth it takes 5.6 years for the average federal project to jump through all the normal environmental hoops. Since environmental activists killed any chance of regulatory reform, the billions in infrastructure spending in this stimulus bill will not be spent till years after the economy has already recovered.
Essentially, withdrawing these ESA rules presents several opportunities for anti-energy activists to file administrative appeals and lawsuits by simply arguing carbon dioxide or any other greenhouse gas emissions are a threat to endangered species or its habitats. Thus, environmentalist activists can effectively block any new stimulus projects – quite contradictory to the stimulus plan’s objective to quickly create jobs and spending. In reality, it guarantees the stimulus money for investment projects will not be spent effectively.
Even Congressman Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) recognized potential for environmental regulations to drastically stall stimulus projects. Consequently, he offered an amendment entirely exempting any funds from the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act from going through NEPA requirements. Unsurprisingly, all amendments to exempt projects from NEPA were gutted from the final bill.
Heritage Senior Policy Energy Analyst Ben Lieberman writes that it’s the goal of environmental activists to de-develop the United States and take us back to the Stone Age:
The environmental movement itself is, by design, anti-growth. After all, these are the individuals and organizations that regularly fight to stop new factories, power plants, and construction projects. For them, environmental concerns, real or exaggerated, almost always trump economic ones, and it is rare for them to be lacking an excuse to oppose a project.
Overall, an economy that tries to operate to the satisfaction of environmental activists will be a substantially weakened one, and an attempt at a stimulus via a greening of the economy will always be self-defeating and a net job killer.”
The inconsistency here is alarming and should not go unnoticed.