Do we have to choose between speedy development and the environment?

Aug 30, 2022 | LPP Blog

We were thrilled to have an opportunity to speak with Laura Gersony at Circle of Blue  about our research on causes of delay in the environmental review process. In answer to her over-arching question, Do We Have to Choose Between Speedy Development and Environment?, we believe that the answer is “no.” As we discussed with Laura, some of our earlier research backs this up. For example, earlier research from the Stegner Center looked at over 643 Critical Habitat designations. Due to a circuit split in interpretation, some were subject to a NEPA analysis, while others were not. On average, Ruple’s team found that the critical habitat rules that under went a NEPA analysis were completed more than three months faster than the rules that did not undergo NEPA review. This shows that when done properly, NEPA can actually help projects go faster because it provides a backbone and framework for coordinated information sharing between agencies. Rather than a hindrance, NEPA has the potential to be a tool. But in order to be used that way, agencies must be encouraged to engage in practices that facilitate efficiency. Practices like designating a lead agency to coordinate inter-agency review and facilitating concurrent agency review processes are effective measures that have already been implemented through the FAST-41 one program. We hope that providing funds to the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council will encourage wider adoption of these types of best practices. That is one way to promote efficiency without compromising analytical rigor in environmental analyses.