President Trump recently announced a major proposal to accelerate federal government permitting for new infrastructure in America. It would advance the construction of roads, bridges, highways and airports, renewable energy projects and important water infrastructure projects such as water storage and treatment facilities.
Since the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was enacted over 50 years ago, the environmental review and permitting process has become unnecessarily complex and time consuming, and extends far beyond what Congress originally intended. For example, the process for completing environmental impact statements for highway projects now exceeds 7 years and statements currently average over 600 pages, and in some instances are thousands of pages long. In many cases, it can take a decade or more before permits are issued and construction can begin.
As the environmental review process under NEPA has become increasingly and unnecessarily complicated, the result is an unpredictable and costly process for agencies, project applicants, and individuals seeking permits and approvals from the federal government. This hinders the development of modern, resilient infrastructure and makes federally-funded projects more expensive for hardworking American taxpayers. Some of our nation’s greatest infrastructure projects were built in less time than we currently spend on the NEPA process. It took four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge, five years to build the Hoover Dam, and less than one year to build the Empire State Building.