The environmental lobby has many fires to put out and a few days worth of water left. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) opposes the stimulus package, but he wants to try and make it easier for federal agencies to build things more quickly. To do that, he's proposed an amendment to exempt certain stimulus-related projects from the mandatory National Environmetal Protection Act review. Sen. Barbara Boxer's amendment would require every stimulus-related project to complete NEPA review. Barrasso wants those projects whose reviews are taking longer than 270 days to be considered exempt or cleared; Boxer wants all projects being given stimulus money to get the benefit of a full environmental review.
NEPA can be time-consuming; critics say it is an example of liberal bureaucratic protectionism at its worst. But environmental advocates say that NEPA's oversight is critical and ensures that programs are efficient, environmentally conscious, and don't provide unnecessary risks to those who implement them. The Chamber of Commerce supports Barrasso's amendment.
The amendments are supposed to come to the floor this afternoon, and pro-NEPA forces worry that, with all the talk about money needing to be handed out quickly, attempts to slow down this down will be politically precarious.
I am told that Boxer is meeting with environmental advocates soon to plot last-minute strategy.