From: Dow Jones
Published February 5, 2009 12:40 PM

Industry Urges Stimulus Measure To Speed Environmental Review

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--U.S. industries are urging federal lawmakers to support a provision in the multi-billion dollar economic stimulus package that would streamline the national environmental review process.

While environmentalists decried the provision, proponents said that without the measure, many of the projects in the recovery bill designed to provide a short-term jump-start to the ailing economy could be delayed for years before construction could move ahead.

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A raft of industry organizations Wednesday sent a letter to Senate members encouraging them to pass an amendment filed by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., that would place a 270-day deadline for the National Environmental Policy Act review process for projects funded by the stimulus bill.

"If you want to get these projects out and into the market, you need to have the ability to move them along and you cannot have unlimited NEPA reviews," said William Kovacs, the head of Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The letter cites a 2007 report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials that estimated the average time to complete a NEPA review for a major transportation project is five years.

The letter was signed by associations representing a major swath of sectors across the economy, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Iron and Steel Institute, the Association of Builders and Contractors, the National Mining Association, the American Council of Engineering Companies and 18 other organizations.

Anna Aurilio, head of advocacy group Environment America, said many of the transportation projects that could qualify for stimulus aide in the package have already cleared the NEPA process.

"We've identified more than $30 billion of ready-to-go transit projects," Aurilio said.

For those projects that haven't passed the NEPA review process, putting in anti-environmental provisions could create long-term health care and environmental costs.

The Senate is hotly debating its own version of a stimulus bill after the House last week passed an $819 billion package.

-By Ian Talley, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9285; ian.talley@dowjones.com

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