In keeping with President Trump’s promise to eliminate two regulations for every one created, his administration has updated the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, to streamline onerous environmental studies for major projects that involve federal funding or permitting. How burdensome have these studies become? In one case, the environmental review took 13 years for a 12-mile road expansion. Increasingly, these reviews take even longer due to lawsuits that occur after the assessment has concluded. This increases expense and gasoline consumption and leads to productivity loss from traffic.
The average review now takes 4.5 years and is just shy of 700 pages. The new regulations limit reviews to two years and 300 pages. Less intensive reviews should take no longer than 1 year and 75 pages. Lengthier processes than those prescribed will require written permission by “a senior agency official.” This is a huge improvement. If Joe Biden wins the presidency, however, he could roll back this progress with simple majorities in the House and Senate using the Congressional Review Act.
President Trump has also focused on regulatory rollbacks that have improved healthcare, with an eye to making the most effective of them permanent. One example is telehealth. Enabled under temporary COVID pandemic measures, it has proved immensely successful. In a May 19th Executive Order, President Trump directed, “Agencies to address [the COVID-19] economic emergency by rescinding, modifying, waiving, or providing exemptions from regulations and other requirements that may inhibit economic recovery…” and, “identify regulatory standards that may inhibit economic recovery and shall consider taking appropriate action… to temporarily or permanently rescind, modify, waive, or exempt persons or entities from those requirements…”. Importantly, in enforcement actions, “The Government should bear the burden of proving an alleged violation of law; the subject of enforcement should not bear the burden of proving compliance.”
These are important actions for getting our economy moving and improving our infrastructure.