Four months ago, which feels as though it must have been two or three years before stay-athome orders, I discussed the merits of retooling the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. In far too many instances, what was intended as a process for assuring that major projects are constructed with minimal environmental impact has been hijacked by BANANA zealots (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone). Last week the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) issued a request for public comment on a rulemaking to codify the cost-benefit analysis required for Clean Air Act decisions. Once finalized, this new protocol is expected to be extended to water quality, oil and gas production, mining and other areas within EPA’s regulatory purview.
Problems with current cost cost-benefit processes have bedeviled the past three Presidential administrations, creating a litany of Executive Orders issued by the Clinton, Bush and Obama White Houses in attempts to rationalize approval requirements. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is proposing to return to first principles weighing the best scientific results with stateof-the-art economic and accounting practices in order to produce transparent and consistent cost-benefit evaluations. This initiative has earned surprising support from Cass Sunstein, Obama’s administrator of the White House of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Sunstein characterized Wheeler’s proposal as an “…important memorandum that makes terrific sense. In principle, it should improve the EPA’s performance – and receive bipartisan applause.”