President Obama Issues Order for Streamlined Review Process
On Friday, May 17, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum to several federal agencies and departments entitled, “Modernizing Federal Infrastructure Review and Permitting Regulations, Policies, and Procedures.” The memorandum builds upon the President’s March 2012 Executive Order that launched an initiative to improve the efficiency of federal review and permitting processes for infrastructure projects. The memorandum directly advises federal agencies to “reduce aggregate timelines for major infrastructure projects by half.” The President aims to streamline the project review process in an effort to invest in the Nation’s infrastructure, which “serves as an engine for job creation and economic growth, while bringing immediate and long-term economic benefits to communities across the country.”
Summary of Memorandum
The implementation of the President’s March 2012 Executive Order has allowed Federal departments and agencies to realize substantial time savings in the review and permitting process through best-management practices. Through Friday’s memorandum, the President asks to improve upon these efforts. The memorandum asks that agencies and departments cut aggregate timelines for major infrastructure projects in half, while also improving outcomes for communities and the environment. The following outlines the requirements of the President’s call for the modernization of review and permitting regulations, policies, and procedures:
- Agencies and departments required to adhere to the modernization effort include: Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- The Steering Committee on Federal Infrastructure Permitting and Review Process Improvement shall prepare a plan, within 120 days of the release of the memorandum, to revise key review and permitting regulations, policies, and procedures (both agency-specific and government-wide).
- Opportunities for the implementation of existing cost-share authorities and other non-appropriated funding sources to support early coordination and project reviews will be utilized.
- Public engagement and expanded coordination with State, local, and tribal governments will be required.
- Mitigation policies to provide project developers with added predictability will be improved.
- Project funding and resource constraints will be taken into account.
- Infrastructure sectors and projects covered by the modernization effort include:
– Water resources projects;
– Storm water infrastructure;
– Ports and related infrastructure, including navigational channels;
– Surface transportation, such as roadways, bridges, railroads, and transit;
– Renewable energy generation;
– Conventional energy production in high-demand areas;
– Electricity transmission; and
The President’s request to streamline the federal infrastructure project review process comes at a time when both the House and Senate have expressed their support for similar legislation. Whether this effort translates into meaningful changes to the permitting approval process is an open question.