Red Tape Stands In The Way of Rebuilding HW 89
"It shouldn’t take the greatest nation on earth years to rebuild from a disaster."
After historic floods destroyed Highway 89, the only road into Yellowstone National Park from the north, Montana’s tourist dependent towns are expressing worries about what a long rebuild could mean for their community. Yellowstone Park superintendent Cam Sholly estimates that permanent road fixes may take 3-5 years.
A major barrier standing in the way of a prompt rebuilding of Highway 89 is a mountain of red tape.
One of the main regulatory obstacles will be a law known as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of proposed actions.
Under NEPA, projects such as road construction go through a process to determine the extent of federal paperwork and approvals that will be required. The shortest amount of NEPA red tape is known as a categorical exclusion, a process that may still take several months to complete after agency reviews and public comment periods.
However if the project is deemed to have a significant environmental impact, then the project would be subject to the most extensive review process known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which on average takes 4.5 years to complete. Keep in mind – that’s 4.5 years BEFORE construction actually begins.
Regardless of which process NEPA will require for rebuilding in the Yellowstone area, it is not the only barrier to reconstruction.
NEPA also opens the door to obstructionist lawsuits that can add significant delays. This is what happened in Yosemite National Park when efforts to rebuild roads destroyed by a flood were halted for 15 years by environmental lawsuits and a long bureaucratic planning and review process.
But it shouldn’t take the greatest nation on earth years to rebuild from a disaster. Luckily for us, Governor Gianforte has made red tape relief a major focus of his administration. Leaders in Washington need to follow Montana’s lead and focus on reducing excessive regulatory obstacles to building infrastructure.
As we approach the end of our Second Anniversary fundraising campaign, I’d like to thank everyone who donated during the month of June. Without you our work wouldn’t be possible, thank you!
The Role of NEPA in Forest Management
Not only does NEPA impact construction projects but new research shows how it can create serious delays in forest management projects. PERC Policy Director, Hannah Downey explains just how much of an impact NEPA can have in this month’s forest management column.
“Though NEPA is intended to encourage careful scrutiny of projects that could harm the environment, it can also delay and increase the costs of environmentally beneficial projects—especially forest management projects.”
A new study came out this week from renowned economist Art Laffer, explaining how the latest efforts to use antitrust enforcement to break up the tech industry would destroy America’s ability to innovate and compete with China. Here are the main highlights:
- From 2002-2017 the Information Technology sector was less monopolistic than the average U.S. industry.
- The goods and services offered by these tech companies have worked to lower prices.
- Proposed legislation would reduce innovation by making popular things like Amazon Prime illegal.
Our Take: This study is further evidence that lawmakers should resist the temptation to increase government control over the tech industry. Replacing Big Tech with Big Government is not the solution. Lawmakers should instead respond to the ills of Big Tech by taking steps to usher in decentralized tech, such as through the creation of a regulatory sandbox.
A new study by Zillow Research found that allowing 10% of single-family lots to house two units instead of one could create millions of new homes across American communities. This modest increase could help put a big dent in the housing shortage we are currently seeing.
Our Take: Many of Montana’s most in demand communities reserve large portions of their city to single family homes, the most expensive home type to build. Officials should focus on restoring property rights by reducing exclusionary single family zoning so that affordable homes can be built in our communities.