How Regulation Could Slow Down the Future
Yesterday, my colleagues Thomas Fuller, Jennifer Medina and Conor Dougherty took a hard look at the future of America’s infrastructure projects, like California’s high-speed rail. More specifically: Are projects that big even possible anymore, given the cost and regulation?
In California, that regulation has reached notoriously byzantine heights and is epitomized in four letters: C.E.Q.A. Conor explains how that happened:
The rapidly escalating cost of California’s high-speed rail project has led to a loss of political support and cast a cloud over its prospects, raising big questions about America’s ability to take on big projects as it once did. The train’s problems also highlight a paradox here and across the nation: It’s often hardest to build in the populated areas where investment is needed most.
For those trying to carry out such projects in California, nothing is more daunting than the California Environmental Quality Act, or C.E.Q.A. Signed by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970, the statute has become a widely used legal tool for delaying or stopping public-works projects from the massive to the micro — even, until recently, those designating bike lanes. And those cases can pit environmental objections against environmental goals.
It is widely agreed in California that new housing and infrastructure should be built in and around population centers, to curb sprawl, to cut down on driving, and to help the state meet its ambitious goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But lawsuits filed under the environmental quality act have often taken aim at just such projects.