The time it takes to nab environmental permits for infrastructure projects could soon be reduced to less than two years. A draft memo from the White House – which, when finalized, would help implement President Trump’s executive order from August to speed the permitting process – has been sent to more than a dozen federal agencies to approve.
The more streamlined process means that the dozens of agencies required to green-light a project must conduct their reviews all at once, rather than one at a time, according to Politico.
The “Purpose” section of the executive order from August stated: “…Inefficiencies in current infrastructure project decisions, including management of environmental reviews and permit decisions or authorizations, have delayed infrastructure investments, increased project costs, and blocked the American people from enjoying improved infrastructure that would benefit our economy, society, and environment. More efficient and effective Federal infrastructure decisions can transform our economy, so the Federal Government, as a whole, must change the way it processes environmental reviews and authorization decisions.”
According to law firm White & Case, federal environmental laws that may need to be revised include the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)1, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act.
White & Case points out that opposition has already been voiced in terms of the proposals. One that is expected to be challenged states that if an agency’s decision is based on a “good faith effort to provide adequate analysis within the allotted time and resources available,” the agency cannot be deemed “insufficient based on a lack of analysis.” An article published by the law firm maintains that opposition for the proposal believes it could allow for arbitrary and capricious agency decisions to be upheld as long as the agency is deemed to have made a good faith effort.
Activists say that delays caused by red tape have been exaggerated, and that President Trump’s case for revisions is wrong.
Watchdog agency the Government Accountability Office says the permitting process has already dropped significantly in time due to changes in a highway and transit funding bill approved in 2005 (via USA Today).
Builders, real estate developers and related industries, on the other hand, cheer the move, saying delays cause increases in cost.