Tomorrow, March 28th, I’ll be testifying on the impacts of Endangered Species Act consultation on economic development and infrastructure. The hearing before the House Committee on Natural Resource Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will be at 10am in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building. [Update: The archived footage of the hearing has been added to the end of this post.]
In my written testimony, I explain that the consultation process has become more burdensome as the federal government has grown. As the number of projects that the federal government regulates, permits, and funds has increased, more and more projects with a minor federal nexus and species impacts must undergo costly and time-consuming consultation.
Consultation delays do not only drag down economic growth and infrastructure development, it can also harm the environment. The recent near-collapse of the Oroville Dam shows how putting off necessary infrastructure maintenance can ultimately harm species. As the flood waters receded, erosion and stranded salmon were huge lingering environmental consequences. With a large share of infrastructure, including dams, bridges, and roads, approaching the end of their engineered life, regulatory obstacles, like consultation, that encourage local governments to put off maintenance and upgrades could cause more situations like that.
Unfortunately, many people intuit that stopping or shrinking human activity always benefits the environment and species. That assumption underlies the Endangered Species Act. But the intuition is wrong. Many species depend on proactive recovery efforts, which consultation makes more difficult. Consultation also slows down environmental regulation and infrastructure upgrades, which also harms species.