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  • 1.  NEPA Rollback - Implications Good or Bad?

    Posted 07-17-2020 09:21 AM

    I'm curious how others see the implications of a less restrictive process? While it appears good for business, and civil engineers by association, do you see any unintended consequences? Alternatively, how do think a less restrictive process will impact the environmental and societal impacts that the act, in its original intent, was designed to protect?

    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX

  • 2.  RE: NEPA Rollback - Implications Good or Bad?

    Posted 07-18-2020 08:53 PM
    If we truly accept and use sustainable design and sustainable industry practices, we would enhance the earth's ecosystems, and at the same time, improving the quality of life of the entire earth's population.  However, greed for money and power are the mantra today both on the left and on the right.  So, environmental legislation, such as NEPA, remains as a necessary impediment to unbridled development fostered by this greed.  However, how we apply the regulations that result from this very excellent law can either benefit the outcomes or degrade them.  The law remains, and it will be enforced.  Taking years and spending millions to obtain permits for development that enhances the environment makes no sense at all, yet that is the disposition and universal behavior of the regulators today, especially in the U.S.  I have written in the past about the concept of compliance incentives, however, this idea did not take root in our regulatory community.  On the other side of the coin, legal avenues still exist and will always exist in the U.S. under our constitution to fight development that is either destructive or not sustainable.  The challenge is that social pressures are often not driven by science, but often by hysteria and lies.  A good example of this confusion is the demonizing of the element carbon, which is the element of life, and the molecule, carbon dioxide, which is the molecule of life.  It is a scientific fact that, if there is not a significant amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, there would be and will not be any life on this planet.  Where do people think our oxygen comes from? It is from the metobilzation of carbon dioxide by plant life.  And, over the billions of years that plant life has existed on our planet, the sequestrarion of carbon dioxide has built am immense reservoir of readily available carbon dioxide in all medias, that keeps the concentration in the atmosphere at a level that is determined by the ambient temperature of the atmosphere/media - via the laws of stoichiometry and kinetics.  So, those who are fighting the use of petroleum products, picked the wrong metric with which to measure what is hysterically called climate change.  Carbon dioxide is the wrong metric, as it is the most important component in our atmosphere.  As I have said in other posts, we should diminish and eventually curtail our use of these other non-renewal resources, so that we can have them available for other beneficial use later - however, we do need to continue to search for and develop other viable sources of renewable energy, including very safe nuclear energy.  This may require a slightly different thinking when it comes to environmnetal laws and regulations.  We also must sustain our economy, or we will crash and burn, and find ourselves back into living in caves. As Benjamin Franklin said, "Everything in moderation, including moderation."  Balance is everything, and incentivized sustainability is the best way to balance environmental compliance.

    Patrick Vasicek P.E., M.ASCE
    Senior Civil Engineer

  • 3.  RE: NEPA Rollback - Implications Good or Bad?

    Posted 07-20-2020 09:03 AM
    Edited by Oanh Le 12-30-2020 02:10 PM

    I am concerned for our environmental sector because of the lack of restrictions for environmental protection and enhancements. I recently started reading a book and in the near future, we will find it difficult to restore land and water on levels that are depleted. Vegetables grow on fertile soil and that should mean soil that is free from contaminants and chemicals that are hazardous to human health. The water that we use needs to come from healthy and reliable resources so that when we mean quality of life, we mean quality of life. We see issues like these commonly, where our industry is being flooded by laws that do not seem to benefit people and communities and more often than not disadvantaged communities are ones that are harmed the most.

    When we have conversations about supporting sustainability and environmentally friendly businesses we are promoting ecological health in our environments, inviting fertility back into our lands so that it can provide an abundance of fruit, crop and better quality of life for communities. I hope this is a subject that our agricultural industry will take interest in as well, I was able to watch the EPA conference about the National Water Reuse Plan on February 27th, 2020 and I know there may be some pros and cons but when we take interest in our public health and look for ways to collaborate, we will find better solutions than ones that are found alone. 

    "Topsoil is essentially nonrenewable. Once eroded or poisoned, it can take thousands of years to rejuvenate itself..Jon piper in his book Farming in Nature's image said, "we have lost one third of their topsoil, and up to 50 percent of their original fertility," as written by Janine M. Benyus, from Biomimicry. Later on she also writes about the depreciation of our products, "In 1900, if you put a dollar's worth of material and energy inputs into your farm, you'd produce $4.00 worth of crops, an input-to-production ratio of 1:4. Today, even though we produce more food, our genetically pauperized, oil-hungry crops cost more to grow. It takes $2.70 worth of oil-based inputs to produce $4,00 worth of crops, an input-to-production ratio of only 1:1.5."

    I don't want to say this but we cannot afford to neglect the land that produces our food, resources or starve the people who are providing us with a way to feed ourselves.

    Oanh Le (She/Her)
    Rochdale MA

  • 4.  RE: NEPA Rollback - Implications Good or Bad?

    Posted 07-21-2020 05:02 PM
    This isn't a complete rollback.  Resources will not be depleted.  Consider the societal impacts of unreasonable and burdensome compliance.  We don't have limitless funds available. Just because many people think something is beneficial for the environment doesn't necessarily mean it is essential.  It is critical to consider cost.  Engineers younger than about 40 will scarcely remember a time when there were limits on government spending capability.  Project cost people money, and nobody is saying we will sacrifice the environment.  There are huge societal impacts, particularly on the underserved and poor, when projects cost money.  Furthermore, if you think government environmental bureaucrats climbing the ladders of power and influence have the well-being of the environment as their first priority, think again.  Human beings have an impact on the environment, get used to it.  Imagine doing a NEPA filing to construct Manhattan as it is today?

    Dudley McFadden P.E., D.WRE, M.ASCE
    Principal Civil Engineer
    Sacramento Municipal Utility District
    Roseville CA