You may have heard that the Trump administration is proposing changes in the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which mandates federal regulatory environmental oversight of major infrastructure projects. These changes are appropriate and overdue. Here’s why.
NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions before they can go ahead. The actions covered by NEPA are broad, including projects such as building highways and airports, managing forestland, and constructing transit systems.
NEPA was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970. It has not been substantially updated in decades, during which time its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) requirements have been stretched beyond what the law itself requires. In fact, they have been stretched beyond what the law allows, under our federalist system of government under the Constituion. This a gross example of mission creep.
On multiple occasions, environmentalists have used NEPA to block federal land management plans that would, in fact, have been environmentally beneficial, and to halt local infrastructure projects that are neither federally directed or managed nor substantially funded by the federal government. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has tacitly, and sometimes actively, supported these lawsuits.
‘Tied up and Bogged Down’
“America’s most critical infrastructure projects have been tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome federal approval process, and I’ve been talking about it for a long time,” Trump said, when signing the proposed reforms on January 9. “These endless delays waste money, keep projects from breaking ground, and deny jobs to our nation’s incredible workers.
Recycling companies are facing hard times. Partly that’s because in 2017 China started closing its doors to waste. It doesn’t accept mixed paper or most plastic or electronic waste.
Although some recycling (such as electronic waste) has been relocated to South Asia, the dwindling market for recycled material has sent prices downward, making it difficult for the entire industry.
But the biggest problems face companies—and communities—that pick up and sort household waste. Approximately 60 curbside programs were canceled in 2017, “with even more drop-off site closures and material limitations,” says Waste Dive, a newsletter about the waste industry. (The newsletter does note that some dropped programs have come back.)
Material that is supposed to be recycled is ending up in landfills, an Atlantic article said earlier this year. Companies are debating how to cope with the shrinking market. A debate over the “single-stream” versus dual-stream (requiring homeowners to separate recyclables) continues. Continue reading “Curbside Recycling: A Costly Mistake”