Environmental Reviews Should Be Easier To Read

The headline on the Opinion page of my local paper is the same as that for today’s blog. And it happens to be an opinion with which I agree completely. See:

http://www.the-signal.com/section/33/article/40985/

Ms. Plambeck states in the piece, “Producing environmental reports of tens of thousands of pages pretty much ensures that no one will read them.” Very true.

It also makes them incredibly difficult and expensive to produce. Tens of thousand of pages takes tens of thousands of hours — usually by expensive consultants — to produce. At only 10,000 pages (way more than the stack of books in today’s photo) and only $100 an hour — both very low numbers for a significant EIR these days — the cost is over $1,000,000. This is for permission from the government for you to pay to build something on your land!

And writing an Environmental Impact Report is tantamount these days to an invitation to a court date.

In the same piece, Ms. Plambeck argues that these reports are not complete enough! The EIR she is currently addressing “did not find the spadefoot toad … until others brought it to their attention.” In addition, “Residents have brought up issues regarding water supply, air quality, and water pollutants that they felt were not properly disclosed.” And if history is any predictor of future events, Ms. Plambeck and her allies will file a law suit against the authors of this EIR.

History also tells us what is likely to occur following this law suit. Attorneys will receive large sums of money to defend the EIR. The court system will be bogged down for weeks examining the merits of the law suit. Months — or years — later, the court will find that the law suit has little or no merit. Ms. Plambeck and her allies will then appeal the decision, and more time and money will be spent. And ultimately, the appeal will also be determined to be without significant merit.

In the mean time, the people who own the property are prevented from doing anything with their own property, and are spending incredible sums of money. Years from now, they will be allowed to build essentially the same project that they proposed long ago. The cost has skyrocketed in the years that have passed. People looking to build the planned homes and roads and shopping centers have had to look elsewhere for jobs — if they could find them at all.

In short, everyone in the community has suffered because an incredibly small group of people did not want someone to do something — with their own money and on their own property.

Ms. Plambeck is correct. Environmental reviews should be easier to read. They should also cost far less, and take far less time to prepare and be reviewed by the public. Unfortunately, the actions that she and her allies have taken in the past have done exactly the opposite. She — and the self-proclaimed “environmentalist” people like her — is the reason that these documents are so long! Land owners are merely trying to make their proposals for development as air-tight as possible, knowing that they will see her in court.

In another article in the Los Angeles Times, we see the now-familiar situation at a slightly later stage. See:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-solar-suit-20110224,0,539145.story

It seems that Native Americans don’t feel that solar power is as environmentally-friendly as others do. So they are suing authors of an EIR to stop the project.

It is a miracle that anything is ever built in California these days.

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