When President Obama signed an Executive Order last year to improve Federal review and permitting of infrastructure projects, he did so based on the belief that the Federal Government can work smarter and faster on projects that grow middle class jobs and maintain strong environmental protections for our communities. We can already see the results of this initiative. A progress report released today shows how Federal agencies have cut red tape to speed the review and permitting of dozens of major bridge, transit, railway, waterway, road and renewable energy projects, promoting jobs and strengthening our competiveness – and without compromising the important health and environmental protections Americans expect and deserve.
Today, the President signed a Presidential Memorandum that takes the next step by institutionalizing the time- and cost-saving tactics the agencies have identified over the past year. These best practices range from expanding use of information technology to cut paperwork and provide agencies with better information faster, to making time-saving collaboration the norm. For example, by having multiple agencies review a project at the same time, instead of one after the other. The Administration is also working to expand innovative tools to improve environmental outcomes; develop more targeted and relevant environmental reviews; provide more opportunities for public input; and improve collaboration with State, local, and Tribal governments.
This modernization effort reaches across the Federal Government and will shave months or even years off of project review and permitting decisions, allowing States, local governments and private developers to get started sooner on projects that grow jobs, fix our Nation’s infrastructure, and are good for communities. It will also protect the health of our communities and give Americans a greater voice in Federal decisions on projects that impact them. Moving forward, you can track the results of specific projects on the Administration’s Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard, which provides an unprecedented level of transparency into the Federal permitting and review process.
This work is all part of the Administration’s effort to make America a magnet for jobs by building a 21st Century infrastructure. At a time when we must do more with less, we must operate more nimbly to continue to deliver on jobs and resilient infrastructure for our communities. Ultimately, we can meet the President’s goal of cutting the timeline in half for major infrastructure projects and create better outcomes for communities and the environment.
Nancy Sutley is Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality