President Donald Trump signed an executive order to speed up permit approvals for America’s crumbling infrastructure. The order is part of his proposal to spend $1.0 trillion on U.S. highways, bridges, pipelines, and other major building efforts.
To fast-track the approval process, though, President Trump needs to roll back rules with regards to environmental reviews and restrictions on government-funded building projects in flood-prone areas.
This revokes an Obama-era executive order designed to lower exposure to flooding, rising sea levels, and other consequences of climate change.
According to the White House, this was needed, as the old system for completing environmental reviews was fragmented, inefficient, and unpredictable to the American people.
“We used to have the greatest infrastructure anywhere in the world, and today we’re like a third-world country. We’re literally like a third-world country,” President Trump said at a press conference at Trump Tower in New York.
According to data supplied by the White House, because of all the regulatory red tape implemented by previous administrations, infrastructure projects are held up for years at significant costs to the U.S. economy.
A 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report states that it takes an average of seven years for a complex highway project to go through the whole environmental review process.
According to the National Association of Environmental Professionals, just one agency can take an average of 3.7 to five years to finish an environmental review.
- One study found that the average delay of six years for major infrastructure projects costs the American economy trillions of dollars.
With President Trump’s fast track process, “It’s going to be quick. It’s going to be a very streamlined process,” he said. “And by the way, if it doesn’t meet environmental safeguards, we’re not going to approve it – very simple.”
Trump’s Executive Order will make the environmental and permitting processes needed for major infrastructure projects more efficient and effective. The new Order introduces:
- A “One Federal Decision” policy, whereby the head Federal agency will work with other related agencies to complete the environmental reviews and permit decisions required for major infrastructure projects.
Every agency involved will sign a joint Record of Decision, with all necessary Federal permits being issued 90 days later.
The order establishes a two-year goal to process environmental documents for major infrastructure projects.
“My administration is working every day to deliver the world-class infrastructure that our people deserve, and frankly, that our country deserves,” President Trump announced. “That’s why I just signed a new executive order to dramatically reform the nation’s badly broken infrastructure permitting process.”
“Presidential Executive Order on Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure,” The White House, August 15, 2017.
“Fact Sheet: President Donald J. Trump Works to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure,” The White House, August 15, 2017.