Accelerating Federal Permitting
Opportunities for Aggressive Implementation
Despite the initially slow pace of FAST-41 implementation, a Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC, required by the law) now exists and existing FAST-41 authorities are available to advance infrastructure projects. The existing guidance states that FAST-41 does not create a presumption that covered projects are to be expedited. However, there is nothing in the law that prohibits agencies from agreeing to prioritize and expedite FAST-41 projects, and thus the statute could be implemented in a way that supports expedited decision-making. Following are recommended steps to accomplish that goal:
Proposed Actions to Accelerate Federal Permit Streamlining
- The Office of Management and Budget Director and The Council on Environmental Quality jointly could issue new guidance to explicitly link EO 13766 to FAST-41, the permit expediting provisions applicable to surface transportation projects found in the FAST Act (§139 of Title 23 U.S.C.) and the project acceleration provisions applicable to water projects found in the Water Resources Development Act (§2348 of Title 33 U.S.C.). The guidance should stress that EO 13766 and these other provisions are intended to work together to expedite review and permitting decisions for high priority infrastructure projects to drive economic growth and job creation.
- The President should expeditiously appoint a new Executive Director of the FPISC (not Senate confirmed) and direct agency heads who have not already done so to designate agency Chief Environmental Review and Permitting Officers (CERPOs) as required by FAST-41.
- The Presidentially-appointed Executive Director of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council should have direct responsibility to the White House.
- The Executive Director should be tasked with the responsibility to regularly update the President and Cabinet on the status of major projects.
- The Executive Director should be directed by the President to develop a strategy to work with the states to better coordinate federal and state permitting efforts and timelines.
- The White House should ensure that the FPISC is adequately funded in order to accomplish the objectives of EO 13766 and FAST-41. Funding is necessary for the Executive Director and staff, maintenance of the permitting dashboard (now housed at the Department of Transportation) and additional funding for steering council activities. Required funding levels are expected to be minimal.
- The Executive Director, once in place should examine whether the FAST-41 reforms should be extended to smaller projects. This most likely will require a legislative change.