Our Nation depends on reliable, modern infrastructure to spur economic growth and foster personal connectivity. For too long, improvements to our crumbling infrastructure (roads, bridges, highways, to name a few) have been bogged down by bureaucratic red tape and government inefficiency – costing Taxpayers trillions of dollars without delivering.
On Wednesday, President Trump took an important step in delivering these desperately needed updates/improvements to the American People by announcing a plan to modernize, simplify, and accelerate the environmental review process for infrastructure projects.
For the first time in 40 years, the President is revamping the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to match the needs of our 21st Century infrastructure industry, while maintaining strong environmental protections. The NEPA requires over 80 federal agencies to assess the environmental impact of projects before approval.
The antiquated 1970s system is fragmented, inefficient, and unpredictable for our current infrastructure needs. It’s caused major delays to our projects at great cost - to everyone.
According to the Government Accountability Office, a highway project can take about seven years to traverse the entire environmental review process. Another study reports that an average delay of six years for major infrastructure projects costs the U.S. economy trillions of dollars.
This means then, for nearly all major improvements to our roads, bridges, and highways, the delays caused by an outdated 1970s NEPA rule are costing us trillions of dollars. This is wholly unacceptable.
Along with President Trump, former President Barack Obama also recognized the inefficiencies of the NEPA regulations and the unnecessary delays it was causing to major infrastructure projects.
According to data submitted to Congress by the Obama White House, nearly 180,000 stimulus projects were granted categorical exemptions from a NEPA review. Then-Secretary of Energy Steven Chu justified the exemptions by saying they were “to get money out the door and spent as quickly as possible… it’s about putting our citizens back to work.”
Instead of providing blanket exemptions, President Trump crafted and finalized a set of regulations to streamline and simplify the environmental review process. The new NEPA regulations set a 2-year time limit for environmental review, improve government agency coordination, reduce unnecessary paperwork, and expand public participation.
The final rule incorporates the One Federal Decision framework - an idea that I’m working to make law with H.R. 7130.
The One Federal Decision framework requires that each major infrastructure project has a lead agency, and that all cooperating federal, state, tribal, and local agencies work together to publish a single environmental impact statement. This cooperation significantly cuts the red tape that delays too many infrastructure projects.
The final NEPA rule also helps to reduce frivolous litigation; it incorporates Supreme Court case law to clarify when NEPA applies and provides clearer definitions.
Whether we see it or not, the NEPA process affects our everyday life. From the construction and improvement of roads, bridges, and highways in our communities, to the deployment of conventional and renewable energy projects, a streamlined and efficient NEPA process will deliver service, improvements and savings to the American People.
One of the core functions of the Federal government is ensuring that we have the necessary infrastructure to facilitate economic activity and strengthen America’s competitive edge in the global economy. Once again, President Trump delivered for us.
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