U.S. Law Blocked Storm Barrier; Environmental Policy Reviewed

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Byline: Joyce Howard Price, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A congressional task force says energy production, the construction of affordable homes and hurricane protection for New Orleans have been hampered by a 35-year-old federal law known as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

"We have heard from numerous industries that expensive and time-consuming legal and procedural delays are preventing energy production and construction projects," Rep. Cathy McMorris, Washington Republican and chairwoman of the House Task Force on Improving the National Environmental Policy Act.

The 1970 law was designed to protect the environment. The 22-member task force has held four hearings across the country to assess NEPA's role in accessing affordable energy, building roads and homes, and managing the nation's natural resources.

NEPA, which established a national environmental policy framework, has "resulted in thousands of lawsuits," holding up some projects for more than 20 years and killing others, said Jennifer Zuccarelli, a task force spokeswoman.

"The NEPA process, as it has evolved from a vague, extremely short statute, has grown into a massive, unclear process that hurts communities as they wait decades for homes, buildings, roads, energy and job-creating projects," Miss Zuccarelli said.

NEPA requires the U.S. government to evaluate the environmental impact of any significant project undertaken by a federal agency, financed with federal money, or requiring a federal permit. It further mandates that the results of the government assessment be made public and that the public decide whether its benefits outweigh its drawbacks. …