Skip to main content

Implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law: Improving Permitting

The Bipartisan Policy Center has written extensively about how the federal environmental review and permitting process can slow the delivery of infrastructure projects, preventing communities from addressing pressing needs and delaying progress toward national climate goals. Fortunately, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law permanently authorized the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council), which is tasked with improving interagency coordination and reducing timelines for project approvals, among other policy changes to improve permitting.

In the third event of our series “Implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” BPC, the National Association of Counties, and the National League of Cities hosted Christine Harada, Executive Director of the Permitting Council. Ms. Harada works with thirteen federal agencies, state agencies, and project sponsors to develop and implement specific timetables for project reviews and approvals. She handles a $100 billion portfolio of large-scale infrastructure projects, most of which are in renewable energy, coastal restoration, and electrical transmission.

Here are a few main themes from the event.

The Permitting Council improves project timelines through interagency coordination.

Read Next
I would like to also mention that despite the name FAST-41, it is not a shortcut. We do not cut corners. We don't do short shrift to any of the environmental reviews or authorizations or statutes. The primary savings in times that we have been able to achieve thus far, largely has been just due to pure and simple coordination. It's not pure and simple. Just because it's simple doesn't mean it's easy, right?

The Permitting Council brings transparency, clarity, and predictability to permitting.

The Permitting Council works to ensure that the environmental review and permitting of the major infrastructure projects is predictable, that it provides a forum for identifying and resolving challenges, ensuring the transparency and accountability to the American people, and providing for efficient collaboration and coordination amongst the numerous agencies involved in the effort.
A value add of the dashboard that I would like to highlight here is that in addition to the transparency of the permitting process is that it also discloses things like the contact information, some really basic things about the project itself. Where is the project? What does it do? Who's the primary point of contact that I need to talk to? ...It's hopefully a one-stop portal.

The Permitting Council is crucial to “unsticking” climate projects.

A lot of the technologies that are needed to be able to help support that cleaner energy transition are still newer....We just need the will. One of the value adds that I’m certainly hopeful for the Permitting Council to provide is in addressing a lot of those kinds of uncertainties and questions.
We would like to claim success for the Gemini Solar Project. That was one of the projects…that had been in the federal permitting process for 10 years…They enter the project [into the FAST-41 process], and we got that thing done within two years.
We successfully permitted [the South Fork Wind Project off the coast of Long Island, New York] in January of this year. That's the second wind farm that we have permitted in this administration....It is a strong signal, I would like to think, to the investor community, to the project developer community, to the state and local government communities. We're serious and we're getting this done.

Permanent authorization allows the Permitting Council to build staff capacity.

Coordination with and buy-in from cities and counties helps improve the process.

One request or pitch for cities and counties is to help us with articulating some of the complexity around [permitting and reviews]. Who are all the different entities that do need to chime in and help out with this.... In addition to that, of course, collaborating with state, locals, tribal nations and ensuring that all of the government entities in the communities are brought in earlier in the process.

Support Research Like This

With your support, BPC can continue to fund important research like this by combining the best ideas from both parties to promote health, security, and opportunity for all Americans.

Give Now