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    • Jessica2 years ago

      This article reminded me of the California High Speed Rail, which I haven't heard much about in a long time. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to browse through the rock cores from some early ground investigations for a section of the proposed route... I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing rock from hundreds of feet beneath the ground surface up close.

      The section about environmental regulations had me frowning, though. The article's tone seems to imply that the environmental regulations are a hindrance.

      Instead, she says, judicial, statutory, and administrative changes — in particular the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1970 — have led to increased power for citizens.

      This isn’t inherently an issue — while it raises costs to engage with lawsuits, if it stops the government from taking harmful action, that could be a good thing! Sometimes costs are rising because we’re paying for something valuable, for instance higher safety standards and accessibility infrastructure like elevators.

      The elevator example feels like a strange insertion and out of place. Safety considerations for elevators are not the same as those for trenching.

      Today the average EIS runs more than 600 pages, plus appendices that typically exceed 1,000 pages. The average EIS now takes 4.5 years to complete; between 2010 and 2017, four such statements were completed after delays of 17 years or more. And remember, no ground can be broken on a project until the EIS has made it through the legal gauntlet – and this includes both federal projects and private projects that require a federal permit.

      As the author points out, I'm sure there are people who use these regulations to curb their inconveniences. However, I feel that there is a slightly dismissive tone on environmental impact investigations. It doesn't surprise me that those can take years, especially for ambitious transportation projects. The EIS can cover topics such as wildlife habitat disruption and hazardous contaminants in soil and groundwater that may be brought to the surface (and potentially exposed to the public... nobody wants that!). Rushing through environmental investigations can lead to really terrible consequences.