Environmental extremism blocking jobs and crushing economy

Washington Examiner Editorial:
"Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected," President Obama joked in 2011 about his failed economic stimulus. But as funny as Obama and his millionaire CEO audience found this line, the American people were not amused.

Despite spending more than $1 trillion on programs to jump-start the economy, the nation's unemployment rate was still above 9 percent at the time. The major reason the stimulus failed to produce as many infrastructure jobs as White House economists predicted was that environmental laws -- particularly the National Environmental Policy Act, as currently written and administered -- make it next to impossible to get approval for projects in a timely manner.

Consider the Keystone XL Pipeline project, which was first proposed in September 2008. The privately-funded $7 billion project should have created over 13,000 construction jobs already, according to Obama's economic advisers. Those jobs don't yet exist, however, because the project is tied up in red tape. Federal bureaucrats have convened at least 20 Washington meetings, held nine field hearings along proposed pipeline routes from the Canadian border south to Texas, reviewed 1,800 comments, and written a 1,000-page Environmental Impact Statement, plus an 800-page Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

But that wasn't enough, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which on Monday made public its letter objecting to the State Department's SEIS because it supposedly failed to properly consider alternative routes for the pipeline and underestimated the project's impact on global warming. The EPA is now demanding that the State Department redo most of the analysis in the SEIS before it makes a final decision in 90 days.

If at that point the EPA still does not like the State Department's final decision, then the issue will go to yet another gathering of bureaucrats, the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, which will issue its own report months later. Then, even if the CEQ approves the project, lavishly funded Big Green activists are sure to sue in federal court to block the project, thus preventing construction into the indefinite future. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in the construction industry is still 14.7 percent, and the Chinese keep offering inducements to Canada to forget the pipeline and sell its oil to them.
The strategy is to delay and drive up costs in hopes of killing the projects by making the economics less profitable.  It is good for the economics of the trial lawyers who push this mess, but it is bad for the country and bad for creating jobs.  The radical environmentalist have been pushing an alternative energy agenda that is rife with inefficient projects that cannot compete on the merits.  Even with subsidies and with litigation against real energy they are still not efficient enough to compete.

The environmental laws need to be amended to stop this kind of endless delays.  We also need to stop the unethical settlements between the environmental groups and their allies in the EPA.


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