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The President believes we must put Americans back to work and build the infrastructure we need to succeed in a global economy. Part of his plan to make this happen is to cut permitting timelines for major infrastructure projects in half and create incentives for better outcomes for communities and the environment.
Today, the Administration is launching five pilot Regional Teams to strengthen collaboration, cut red tape, and reduce permitting timelines. Each team will facilitate Federal field office coordination on regional infrastructure priorities including passenger rail, renewable energy, electricity transmission, oil and gas production, and drought mitigation. In the Pacific Northwest, we’re going to partner with states to move faster on renewable energy, transmission and other infrastructure projects. We’re going to help the Northeast Corridor move faster on high-speed rail service. In the central U.S., we’ll work on projects that will help local communities deal with worsening drought. We’re going to help states like North Dakota and Montana move faster on oil and gas production. And we’ll develop a cross-discipline team to facilitate the development of electrical transmission in the West. These teams will also serve as a laboratory for further innovations.
State, local, and tribal governments are critical partners in the effort to address our Nation’s infrastructure needs and reach these goals. Close collaboration with states is especially important because major infrastructure projects like bridges, rail lines, and waterways often involve both Federal and state agency permits. That’s why working together from the beginning of the permitting process can shave months or even years off project timelines, as well as deliver a project that will have better results for local communities and the environment.
For example, the Department of Transportation took months off the timeline to approve the Whittier Bridge Replacement project in Massachusetts by working with the state government and doing concurrent project reviews. More than 70,000 cars cross the bridge every day, and this project –scheduled to start construction in spring of this year – will bring it up to current safety standards and increase its capacity.
In another example, the Department of the Interior worked with the State of California to create a Renewable Energy Policy Group to align Federal and state permitting and review processes to expedite solar, wind, geothermal and transmission projects in California. To date, thanks to these efforts, approximately 15 gigawatts of renewable energy projects – enough to power millions of homes – have been approved in California, including more than 5 gigawatts on public lands.
And those are just two examples of how we are reducing projected timelines for more than 40 major infrastructure projects around the country by several months to several years, as you can see here on our permitting dashboard.
We have made tremendous strides in working together with our state partners to cut project timelines and make permitting for critical infrastructure project more efficient and timely. Now is the time to be building on this progress, not taking a step back. But a step back is exactly what we face if Congress does not act in the coming days to avoid the across-the-board cuts – known as sequestration – scheduled to take effect this Friday. As just one example, permitting by the Department of the Interior would slow down, creating delays for the development of oil and gas on Federal lands. Congress must act quickly to pass a balanced plan to reduce our long-term deficits and invests in what we do need – like better infrastructure.
David Agnew is Director for Intergovernmental Affairs and Danny Werfel is Controller of the Office of Management and Budget