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Expert Forum: Environmental Review and Permitting

The Brief
  • The Bipartisan Policy Center has written extensively about the need for reforms to the federal permitting and environmental review process, outlining where we see room for improvement.  
  • This issue will reenter the political debate as Congress advances a surface transportation reauthorization bill in the coming months. 
  • To highlight a range of perspectives and elevate some new ideas, below are a few guest-authored blogs on environmental review and permitting from experts around the country—highlighting their own experiences and solutions.  

Remove Unnecessary Regulatory Burdens from Transportation Project Delivery 

By Nick Goldstein, American Road and Transportation Builders Association 

Regulations play a vital role in protecting the public interest in the transportation project review and approval process. They provide a sense of predictability and ensure a balance between meeting our nation’s transportation needs and protecting our nation’s vital natural resources.  

These goals, however, do not have to be in conflict. The most successful transportation streamlining provisions have been process-oriented and find a way to fulfill regulatory requirements in a smart and more efficient manner. 

Walking in Both Worlds 

By Lou Thompson, Tribal Energy Resource LLC 

If energy companies want to shorten the permitting timeframe and avoid tribal opposition, they must make a more concerted effort to work with tribes on their projects. If that were to happen, pipeline companies, in particular, would be very surprised by the benefits those relationships could bring.   

Early Integration of Historic and Cultural Resources into Infrastructure Planning:
If You Don’t Map It, You Can’t Save It… 

By Tom Cassidy, National Trust for Historic Preservation 

Federal investment in our country’s aging infrastructure is overdue and is critical to the vitality of the communities where we live and work. Efficient delivery of infrastructure projects and the preservation of our nation’s cultural resources can and should be complimentary goals, as intended by Congress when it passed the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.   

We Do Not Need New Bipartisan “Solutions” to Speed Up the Permitting and Environmental Review Process 

By Scott Slesinger, formerly of the Natural Resources Defense Council 

This issue of speeding up permits and environmental reviews is a sideshow intended to give politicians a political win while diverting attention from the real problem of infrastructure delays—funding. In fact, I am sure most members of Congress are unaware that the most critical changes in infrastructure policy in 2005, 2012, 2014, and 2015 were not changes to the transportation network but to the permit and environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.   

Gaining Community Buy-In for Infrastructure Projects

By James Rubin, Meridiam 

As an infrastructure developer, investor, and asset manager, Meridiamhelps build publicly-owned infrastructure around the globe. Each country in which we invest our time, capital, and expertise has environmental and planning statutes that require us to get permits and approvals from our public partners.   

In the United States, delays from the environmental review and permitting process are part of doing business. But there are best practices that can make the process work more quickly and productively. By engaging local stakeholders and city officials early on and building close, collaborative ties, the permitting process can be expedited and result in better projects that better meets the needs and desires of community members. Case in point, our Long Beach Courthouse project. 

Any views expressed on this forum do not necessarily represent the views of the Executive Council on Infrastructure, its co-chairs, or the Bipartisan Policy Center. 

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