Monday, June 12, 2017

Administration aims to reduce environmental permitting process to two years

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President Trump wants to shave three to eight years off the environmental process for infrastructure projects. President Trump wants to shave three to eight years off the environmental process for infrastructure projects. USDOT

President Donald Trump joined U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Elaine Chao and other infrastructure stakeholders at USDOT's headquarters to close out Infrastructure Week and push the regulatory reform element of his infrastructure plan.

 

"We are here today to focus on solving one of the biggest obstacles to creating this new and desperately needed infrastructure, and that is the painfully slow, costly and time-consuming process of getting permits and approvals to build," said President Trump. "It is a long, slow, unnecessarily burdensome process."

To move the planned reform along, USDOT published a notice in the Federal Register on June 8 requesting infrastructure stakeholders, as well as the public, "to identify non-statutory requirements that the department imposes and that should be removed or revised."

USDOT will accept input on how to improve the permitting process through July 24, 2017 and will use the input to "identify and reduce unnecessary regulatory obstacles that too often stand in the way of completing important infrastructure projects across the nation."

During his speech, the president noted "it can take 10 years and far more than that just to get the approvals and permits needed to build a major infrastructure project." The White House blog on June 8 published material that said the infrastructure plan "aims to dramatically reduce permitting time for these infrastructure projects from 10 years to two years."

According to National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP), which tracks the state of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, the average permitting process time is far less than 10 years.

NAEP's most recent NEPA Report from 2015 says the average time to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIA), from Notice of Intent to Final EIS, was five years with 16 percent of EISs prepared in two years or less. This is an increase from the 2014 NEPA Report where the average EIS time frame was 4.7 years and nearly 36 percent of EISs were prepared in two years or less.

Should the administration's permitting reform fruit its intended results, projects would move through the EIS process three to eight years faster.

"This massive permit reform -- and that's what it is; it's a permit reform -- doesn't sound glamorous," said President Trump. "But it's so important...it's only the first step in renewing America's roads, rails, runways and rivers."