President Trump works to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure
The old system for completing environmental reviews in the US was fragmented, inefficient, and unpredictable leading to a call to modernise an outdated system.
U.S. President Donald J. Trump, said: “Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways gleaming across our very, very beautiful land.”
The Federal Government currently lacks a system for tracking the costs of the environmental review and permitting process for major infrastructure projects so an Executive Order has been issued that will require agencies to track the costs of conducting environmental reviews and making permitting decisions.
With regulatory red tape to jump through, major infrastructure projects are held up for years at significant cost to the U.S. economy. According to a 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, it takes 7 years on average for a complex highway project to go through the entire environmental review process. According to the National Association of Environmental Professionals, a single agency can take 3.7 to 5 years on average to complete an environmental review.
One study has found that the average delay of six years for major infrastructure projects costs the U.S. economy trillions of dollars.
Removing roadblocks to improved infrastructure
The Executive Order signed by President Trump is titled “Establishing Discipline and Accountability In the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects.”
The Executive Order will make the environmental and permitting processes needed for major infrastructure projects more efficient and effective. Rather than allow for a patchwork of agency reviews, this Order implements a One Federal Decision policy under which the lead Federal agency will work with other relevant Federal agencies to complete the environmental reviews and permitting decisions needed for major infrastructure projects. Each agency will sign a joint Record of Decision and all required Federal permits will be issued 90 days later.
The order establishes a two-year goal to process environmental documents for major infrastructure projects.
The entire environmental review and permitting process will be reviewed to improve performance across the government and hold every Agency accountable. Under this order: The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) will develop and implement an action plan to improve environmental reviews Government-wide.
The CEQ will mediate disagreements between Federal agencies so a decision isn’t delayed amid bureaucratic disputes.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will develop a two-year Government-wide modernization goal and ensure Federal agencies take meaningful steps to achieve it.
Agencies will modify their strategic plans to include agency-specific goals for improving environmental review and permitting processes, and hold their officials accountable.
OMB will establish a performance accountability system and score each agency on their implementation of the Executive Order. Poor performance will be considered in budget formulation and could result in the imposition of available penalties.
Agencies will also be held accountable for implementing appropriate best practices that are proven to enhance the environmental review and permitting process.
The Executive Order makes clear that environmental protections will be maintained, and that the process should focus more on decision-making and good environmental outcomes rather than bureaucratic process.
Building on past success
President Trump has made infrastructure a priority and has taken action to rebuild America.
Oil and gas development in the United States has been prioritised by expanding access to resources and the infrastructure needed to get them to market and he has approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, which is estimated to create over 42,000 jobs and $2 billion in earnings.
An Executive Order was also signed to mandate future pipeline work to be done by American workers and with American steel as well as new pipeline approval and production, such as the New Burgos Pipeline to Mexico.
The President has dedicated US$200 billion in his budget as part of a US$1 trillion investment plan to rebuild infrastructure.
The Federal Government will help bring transformative projects to market that will bring the country’s infrastructure into the 21st century.
Rural America will receive grants to rebuild crippled bridges, roads, and waterways and states and cities will receive grants to meet their own infrastructure challenges.
Qualified projects of regional and national significance, such as those created under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, will receive loans.
The Government’s goal is to get out of the way to allow State and local governments to succeed at meeting their unique challenges. Only one-fifth of infrastructure spending comes from the Federal Government, the vast majority comes from states, localities, and the private sector.