green tape
n. Excessive environmental regulations and guidelines that must be followed before an official action can be taken.
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As soon as green building regulations got branded a conservatory tax, they were meekly dropped… The chancellor has taken to cynically rousing the Tory party against "burdensome" green tape.
—“Green politics: a movement in search of a voice,” The Guardian, May 14, 2012
The Prime Minister will use a high-powered business forum in Canberra today to support industry concerns about the burden of "green tape" that leads to delays and cost blowouts on projects.
—David Crowe & Annabel Hepworth, “PM tells premiers to cut green tape to free capital,” The Australian, April 12, 2012
1990 (earliest)
Thus begins "Paul Bunyan," a 30-minute animated feature, narrated by Jonathan Winters, from the Rabbit Ears Storybook Collection, to be released next month by Sony Video Software ($14.95). Paul can handle an ax, all right — one swing levels most every tree for 40 acres and the rest lie down in fright — and shortly he has strip-logged the entire state of North Dakota. Traditionally that would be that, but with sectors of video concerned about the environment this is the era of the "green tape." The Rabbit Ears version of the story ends with Bunyan replanting everything he has cut down.
—Peter M. Nichols, “Timely Stories, And They're Documented,” The New York Times, August 12, 1990
This term is the environmental analogue of the phrase red tape, which originally referred to a piece of woven tape, red or pink in color, used to bind together official papers and legal documents. The pejorative sense of the term has been in the language since at least 1736.