How to covertly destroy American infrastructure


Portions of the Line 3 Enbridge Pipeline can be seen at the construction site in Park Rapids, Minnesota.


kerem yucel/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Americans will need a split screen for the Biden administration’s policy contradictions. Even as the president on Tuesday promoted the bipartisan infrastructure bill he signed into law last November, the White House moved to make it harder to build roads, bridges and, of course, oil and natural gas pipelines.

The White House Environmental Quality Council is revising the rules of the National Environmental Policy Act for permitting large construction projects. CEQ chair Brenda Mallory says the changes would “create regulatory certainty” and “reduce conflict”. Instead, they will cause more litigation and delays that will skyrocket construction costs if they don’t shut projects down immediately.

NEPA requires federal agencies to review the environmental impacts of major projects that are funded by the Fed or require federal approval. Reviews can take years and thousands of pages to cover the smallest potential impact on species, air or water quality. Project developers may be forced to mitigate these impacts, for example by relocating species.

While the 1970 law was intended to prevent environmental disasters, it has become a weapon to stall development. The Trump administration sought to expedite projects by limiting NEPA assessments to environmental impacts that are directly foreseeable — e.g. B. how the construction of a pipeline would affect a river that it crosses.

However, some liberal judges have interpreted NEPA broadly to require the study of impacts indirectly derived from a project such as CO2 emissions. Now the Biden administration is mandating it. CEQ’s new rule requires agencies to calculate the “indirect” and “cumulative impacts” that “may result from individually small but collectively significant actions that take place over a period of time.” For many projects, this means death through a thousand regulatory cuts.

The Department of Transportation will likely need to examine how highway expansion could increase greenhouse gas emissions associated with new warehouses. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may need to calculate how a new pipeline will affect emissions from upstream production and downstream consumption.

Wait – didn’t FERC recently change their policy to do just that? The White House is slamming West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin for blasting FERC’s now-suspended policy over shutting down “the infrastructure we desperately need as a country.”

The rule’s apparent intention is to make it more difficult to construct pipelines, roads and other infrastructure that would allow higher US oil and gas production, even as the government makes false gestures to lower energy prices. Last Friday, the government announced it would comply with a court order to bar oil and gas leasehold sales on public lands. Those leases don’t matter if energy companies can’t get federal permits for right-of-way.

While fossil fuels may be the policy target of the rule, don’t be surprised if green energy gets caught in that tripwire. Environmental groups have used NEPA to block new mineral mines and transmission lines connecting distant renewable energy sources to population centers. In this government, the left hand doesn’t seem to know what the extreme left hand is doing.

Wonderland (8/11/21): The Democrats have destroyed the cities and the border. Why should climate policy be any different? Images: Zuma Press/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the April 21, 2022 print edition as “How to Kill Infrastructure on the Sly”. How to covertly destroy American infrastructure

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