If you missed George Will’s latest column — written from the site of the next GOP primary, but about the question of deepening Southeastern ports to handle the larger container ships that will begin coming through the larger Panama Canal within the next several years — I draw your attention to this bit citing the head of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, Jim Newsome:
Newsome says the study for deepening Savannah’s harbor was made in 1999. It is 2012, and studies for the environmental impact statement are not finished. When they are, the project will take five years to construct. “But before that,” he says laconically, “they’re going to be sued by groups concerned about the environmental impact.” A Newsome axiom — that institutions become risk-averse as they get challenged — is increasingly pertinent as America changes from a nation that celebrated getting things done to a nation that celebrates people and groups who prevent things from being done.
Writing at Power Line, Steven Hayward echoes the point:
Take the Keystone pipeline as an example. The pipeline is likely to be approved eventually, but only after more years of review and litigation. Certainly measures will need to be taken to reduce the environmental risks of the pipeline, but is there any safety measure that we will eventually impose that we didn’t recognize in the first six months of the review process? It’s not like we’ve never built a pipeline before, or learned from previous pipeline accidents (like the one in Montana last summer). Are there really any potential environmental impacts of deepening a harbor … by five feet that require six to ten years of review and litigation, and a three-thousand page Environmental Impact Statement? …
What needs to be done? The regulatory review process ought to have a short deadline. Agency review should be completed within six or nine months, with a presumption in favor of granting permission unless an agency can delineate a substantively new problem based on precedents from previous similar projects …. Standing to sue to block projects should be tightened, and the threshold for hearing such suits made much more restrictive. And how about requiring that all Environmental Impact Statements be no longer than 200 pages? I’m sure all the environmental lawyers and consultants who charge by the hour and make a bundle doing these multi-volume EIRs that no one reads will howl, but if the Supreme Court can limit briefs to 50 pages on matters of high constitutional importance, why can’t our regulatory process not emulate a standard of brevity that emphasizes the essential over the frivolous and tedious?
I’d venture to guess a majority of conservative voters, and perhaps a majority of all voters, would approve of such changes, which can hardly be described truthfully as deregulation. They might be better termed a decluttering of regulation.
– By Kyle Wingfield