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It’s Not Just NEPA: Reforming Environmental Permitting

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It’s Not Just NEPA: Reforming Environmental Permitting

November 20, 2023

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This piece originally appeared in American Affairs.

In recent years, pandemic-related supply chain failures, oil shocks, and China’s growing dominance over critical materials has forced policy­makers to reckon with the limits of free market orthodoxy. In 2018, President Trump bucked the Republican party line on trade by impos­ing tariffs on steel and aluminum. The Biden administration has made “Build Back Better” the centerpiece of its economic agenda, pouring massive investments into American industry with the chips and Infla­tion Reduction Acts.

As the focus on domestic industry has grown, so too has awareness of America’s prohibitive regulatory environment—and in particular its environmental laws. As Robinson Meyer writes in Heatmap, “For the first time in decades, both parties want something to change about the country’s permitting process.” Democrats, on the one hand, have realized that environmental review stands in the way of their climate agenda, creating years of regulatory drag for new energy infrastructure. Republicans, meanwhile, have long regarded America’s environmental laws as duplicative, easily politicized, and unreasonably stringent. With growing bipartisan interest in regulatory reform, this last year has seen a number of permitting bills introduced by both parties, from House Republicans’ Lower Energy Costs Act to Democratic senator Tom Carper’s PEER Act.

These proposals are certainly a promising start. But to call them an “overhaul” of the nation’s permitting process, as many outlets have done, is to miss the mark.

Continue reading in American Affairs.

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