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Environmental Permitting Applications Are on the Rise

A federal office created to help developers navigate the environmental permitting process has seen a recent rise in applications, a sign of the importance of permitting for the White House to “reach its many infrastructure goals,” according to a Bloomberg Law article. Recent projects include a large transmission line and offshore wind developments.

  • Many of the moves that the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council is now making are in keeping with supply chain–strengthening recommendations laid out in the 2020 NAM American Renewal Action Plan. 

The background: The council, originally created in 2015 and made permanent under the bipartisan infrastructure legislation passed last year, “works to bring various agencies together to iron out complex environmental permit reviews and avoid any surprises that could stall projects,” according to Bloomberg.

  • “The council has also started working with states to develop memorandums of understanding that formalize the interactions between itself and various levels of local government.”
  • This follows the NAM’s 2020 plan, which called for an executive order to reaffirm “the FPISC’s existing authority to oversee and coordinate with all applicable agencies and levels of government to identify, prioritize and set timelines that avoid unnecessary delays.”

Insufficient funds: However, a lack of funding hampers the small office, Executive Director Christine Harada said this week.

  • “For example, Harada noted that funding raised from wind area lease options now goes exclusively to the U.S. Treasury,” Bloomberg reported. “‘Could we not allocate even a small percentage of that to permitting?’ she said. ‘Because we are providing these lease options specifically for project developer opportunity for investment in our infrastructure. Can we not shave off a little bit of it, so that we can help execute it and make it a reality? That would be amazing.’” 

In the works: The council, whose staff numbers President Biden’s fiscal 2023 budget would increase from 15 to 25 full-time employees, is doing outreach to states for broadband projects.

The NAM’s view: “This is one of those times that you almost hate to be right. We have told policymakers time and again that concurrent permitting reviews and more funding are critical to an efficient system that prioritizes both environmental protection and economic opportunity,” said NAM Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy Rachel Jones.

  • “While it’s been a long time coming and the NAM has relentlessly pushed policymakers, we are relieved to see the Biden administration beginning to wake up to the realities of the dysfunctional permitting system that holds America back.
  • “Now that they are ‘talking the talk,’ we will make sure that policymakers put the words to action so that critical infrastructure projects are built faster and taxpayer dollars are better spent.”
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