The Original Sin of Environmental Review

sprawl.jpgNo EIS necessary. Photo: tlindenbaum/Flickr

In the past few months we’ve reported on opponents of bike lanes, car-free parks, and congestion pricing using the pretext of environmental review to stymie initiatives that would reduce vehicle emissions. Norman Oder at the Atlantic Yards Report points us to another unintended consequence of the National Environmental Protection Act, the 1970 legislation that established the EIS process.

AYR recounts a talk given by progressive developer Jonathan Rose, who says that NEPA — favored by a real estate industry that did not want to subject itself to an alternative law based on land use planning — was flawed from the start:

"So the effect was that we turned our back on national planning, and we
turned our back on a national infrastructure policy," Rose said. "And,
at the same time, here’s what happens: 1000 individuals choose to
subdivide a parcel in the suburbs, or the exurbs, and it falls under
the screen of an environmental impact statement, each one is one
individual act."

"One person chooses to build a 1000-unit urban
project in a city and they get held up for five years in an
environmental impact statement," he concluded. "And so the unintended
consequence of NEPA actually was one more of the many things that made
it easier for suburban sprawl to proceed from 1970 to 2000 instead of
urban redevelopment."


Thursday Job Market

Looking to hire a smart, qualified person for a position in transportation planning, engineering, IT, or advocacy? Post a listing on the Streetsblog Jobs Board and reach our national audience of dedicated readers. Please note: The window to list your job opening for free is closing fast. Starting Monday, the price for posting a job […]

Do Environmental Reviews for Road Projects Help the Environment?

It’s been more than 40 years since the National Environmental Policy Act was enacted. In that time, America has built a lot of emissions-inducing, land-devouring highway infrastructure despite the environmental review process mandated by NEPA. It’s fair to ask: When it comes to transportation infrastructure, does environmental review make a difference for the environment? To comply with federal environmental […]

The Parking Cure Part 2: Do the Right Tests

We continue with our look at recommendations proposed in "Suburbanizing the City," a report issued by a cross-section of public interest groups on the detrimental effects of off-street parking policies on city traffic. Last week we visited the city’s parking doctor and got the wrong medicine. In this episode of city parking malpractice, the parking […]