October 30, 2011
n July 2011, Representative Ken Calvert (R-California) introduced the Reducing Environmental Barriers to Unified Infrastructure and Land Development (REBUILD) Act. Currently, construction and land development projects must not only meet state regulations, but also federal standards created by the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Under the REBUILD Act, development projects would have to comply with state regulations only, provided that these state regulations uphold NEPA standards or higher. In effect, the REBUILD Act seeks to merge state and federal legislation to expedite the process of bringing development projects to fruition without sacrificing environmental protection.
As it stands, many states, such as California, already feature more stringent regulations than NEPA standards.Calvert himself called the REBUILD Act an attempt to “remove bureaucratic red tape” and “streamline the environmental review processes for critical infrastructure projects without compromising environmental protections.” Estimates place the amount of time saved by the REBUILD Act, should it be passed, around 18 months per project.
While resistance to strict government legislation is nothing new, the current economic climate poses a unique challenge to environmental protection. As this collection of polls from 2007-2011 shows, there is often a dichotomy presented between the environment and the economy; if one prospers, the other suffers. A March 2010 Gallup Poll found that 53% of Americans surveyed said that economic growth takes precedence over environmental protection. The same study concluded that American concern for the environment had hit a 20 year low. Opinions are also especially polarized across party lines. A 2010 CNN poll reported that Republicans, and to a lesser extent, Independents, felt that “economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.” A majority of Democrats, however, felt that the environment should be protected, even at the risk of curbing economic growth.
Yet the issue of too much environmental regulation is not specific to Democrats or Republicans; nor is it limited to even The United States.“TheRedTapeChallenge” as it is known in the United Kingdom is an initiative launched by Parliament in early 2011 to reevaluate government regulation in a variety of sectors, including the environment. The Red Tape Challenge addresses the issue of regulation and red tape by attempting to encourage greater environmental and societal responsibility. The creators of The Red Tape Challenge recognize the importance of regulations but also the danger of having too many and the impact on an economy and business. On their website they sum up their opinions by saying, “This government has set a clear aim: to leave office having reduced the overall burden of regulation. With more than 21,000 regulations active in the UK today, this won’t be an easy task – but we’re determined to cut red tape.”
Essentially the United Kingdom is opening up their Environmental Regulations and Policies to be commented on and edited by the people. However just because a group of businessmen want one regulation cut doesn’t mean that it will be because the Ministers will have a total of 3 months to determine which regulations will be kept and why they will be kept. This is done so that the red tape will be cut, not the vital environmental regulations. In order for the regulations to remain the same cases will be heard on both sides and argued until a decision is made. However there is much concern as to whether or not this policy will be what is necessary to avoid Red Tape or whether it will undermine important regulations, and Britain remains largely divided over the issue.
About the authors: Makena Crowe and Minda Monteagudo are working towards their bachelor degrees in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.