May 15, 2014 - 4:15pm

A Plan to Get Back in the Business of Building Things

Former Senior Vice President, Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs

The President’s Memorandum “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure: Modernizing Infrastructure Permitting” is a positive effort towards reforming a dysfunctional federal permitting process that is manipulated more for delaying projects than for fostering the building of projects, improving infrastructure, and creating jobs. 

Now that the President is firmly positioned on the side of streamlining the federal permitting process, it is time for the Senate to pass the bipartisan “Federal Permitting Improvement Act” (S. 1397) introduced by Senators Portman and McCaskill with three additional Republican cosponsors and four additional Democrat cosponsors. This bill would put much of the President’s Memorandum into law and apply it to all major federal projects.

The Chamber has long said that the current permitting process for projects in this country is broken, making it very difficult if not impossible to create jobs across the country. A few years ago, the Chamber’s Project No Project study examined 351 energy projects nationwide being impacted by the current permitting process. If all 351 projects were allowed to move forward, the impact would be over one trillion dollars in economic activity and over 1.8 million new jobs created annually during the construction period. But for the delays in permitting, a vast majority of the projects would have been built with private capital and would have created well-paying jobs in the private sector.

In recognition of the impact our permitting process has on job creation, members of Congress have also been leading the fight for reform. The House of Representatives has already passed permit streamlining legislation with bipartisan support. 

And, the Chamber strongly supports the Federal Permitting Improvement Act, noting such strong bipartisan support that Senator King from Maine even testified in favor of the legislation during a subcommittee hearing last month. This bipartisan legislation would address the problem that far too many shovel-ready projects face today: lengthy project delays from endless environmental reviews and challenges result in lost opportunities to create jobs and grow the economy. Every year of delay results in millions of jobs not created. The creation of millions of jobs is worth ensuring that our government works faster and more efficiently.

Many of the provisions being advanced by the President – such as early agency coordination, the designation of a lead agency, synchronizing reviews, and expanding the permitting process dashboard – are solid, commonsense proposals, which are incorporated into the Federal Permitting Improvement Act. The fact sheet released by the White House yesterday states:

The President has also been clear that he is committed to making 2014 a year of action and that while he wants to work with Congress wherever they are willing, he will not hesitate to use his power as President to act on his own to promote American economic growth and opportunity.

Fortunately, for the goal of reducing red tape, permit streamlining now appears to be an issue that the White House and Congress can work together on in a bipartisan manner.

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About the Author

About the Author

Former Senior Vice President, Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs

Kovacs is the former Senior Vice President for the Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.