White House Releases New Permitting Action Plan

FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2022

Earlier this month, the Biden-Harris Administration released a new Permitting Action Plan to accelerate federal permitting and environmental reviews for infrastructure projects funded through the bipartisan infrastructure law.

The action plan outlines the strategy to ensure that federal environmental reviews and permitting process are effective, efficient and transparent, while guided by the best available science to promote positive environmental and community outcomes. In turn, it hopes that these steps will help strengthen supply chains, lower costs and grow clean energy.

Additionally, the goal is to deliver long overdue infrastructure investments on task, on time and on budget without delays while promoting environmental goals. The action plan will reportedly result in better permitting outcomes, enhanced predictability for project sponsors and increased accountability.

According to the White House Fact Sheet, the Permitting Action plan is built on five key elements to help ensure timely and effectively delivery of infrastructure upgrades:

  • Accelerating smart permitting through early cross-agency coordination;
  • Establishing clear timeline goals and tracking key project information;
  • Engaging in early and meaningful outreach with states, tribal nations, territories and local communities;
  • Improving agency responsiveness, technical assistance and support; and
  • Using agency resources and environmental reviews to improve impact.

As part of the action plan, the Administration says it will leverage the interagency Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council’s expanded authorities under the bipartisan infrastructure law to improve coordination among agencies, help avoid and resolve potential conflicts and bottlenecks, identify and share best practices, and accelerate information sharing and troubleshooting.

This includes interagency coordination on siting, permitting, supply chain and related issues, as well as promoting efficient and timely reviews. This will be done in part by developing and preparing new approaches to permitting and environmentally review to help address common issues, eliminate duplication and incorporate a climate-smart approach.

The White House also plans to create permitting schedules with clear timeline goals that are both ambitious and realistic, contain relevant milestones and meet all requirements. To increase transparency and accountability, the Federal Permitting Dashboard will also track key project information, including these timelines and milestones.

There will also be a focus on consultation with communities to ensure that the public, including disadvantaged communities, will have opportunity to participate in decision-making. Agencies are expected to proactively partner and coordinate with relevant state, territorial and local governments.

The Office of Management and Budget, in consultation with the Council of Environmental Quality, is expected to provide guidance to agencies on carrying out these initiatives within 90 days of the issuance of the plan.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

With the goal of rebuilding the nation’s deteriorating roads and bridges, as well as funding new climate resilience and broadband initiatives, the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act reportedly serves to deliver a key component in President Joe Biden’s agenda.

Projects approved in the legislation in November, according to the White House’s Fact Sheet, will include:

  • Delivering clean water to all American families and eliminate the nation’s lead service lines ($55 billion);
  • Ensuring access to reliable high-speed internet ($65 billion);
  • Repairing and rebuilding roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity and safety ($110 billion);
  • Improving transportation options for millions of Americans and reduce greenhouse emissions through the largest investment in public transit in U.S. history ($89.9 billion);
  • Upgrading airports and ports to strengthen supply chains and prevent disruptions that cause inflation, also creating jobs and reducing emissions ($17 billion);
  • Making the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak ($66 billion);
  • Building a national network of electric vehicle chargers ($7.5 billion);
  • Upgrading power infrastructure to deliver clean, reliable energy and deploy energy technology to achieve a zero-emissions future ($65 billion);
  • Making infrastructure resilient against the impacts of climate change, cyber-attacks and extreme weather events ($50 billion); and
  • Delivering the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history by cleaning up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaiming abandoned mines and capping orphaned oil and gas wells ($21 billion).

The White House also reports that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, alongside the Build Back Framework, will add on average 1.5 million jobs per year for the next ten years.

As potential effects of climate change woe the world, the legislation has recognized that nearly 75% of the nation’s electricity can be accounted for in both its residential and commercial structures, such as housing, stores and offices.

To mitigate the high usage, the Build Better Plan has dedicated roughly $5 billion to various programs aimed at reducing electricity use in buildings, improving building materials and training on design, construction and maintenance for energy-efficient structures.

The bill will also fund a series of problem-solving programs, for issues varying from drafty windows in affordable housing complexes to aged air ducts and outdated building codes.

According to reports, the largest chunk of the $5 billion will be utilized for the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, which aids structures owned or occupied by people with low incomes. The legislation is expected to provide a $3.5 billion infusion for the program, which will be used to fund upgrades such as insulation, windows, roofing, and heating and cooling devices.

Though seemingly minor, the upgrades are expected to result in sizable energy savings.

Later in November, the White House announced that President Biden named former New Orleans Mayor Landrieu as senior advisor responsible for the implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

At the beginning of the year, Landrieu reached out to state leaders at the beginning of the month encouraging them to appoint their own infrastructure coordinators to implement the $1.2 trillion law.

The three-page letter, sent to all the nation’s governors on Jan. 4, he requested that they appoint a “high-level” representative to serve as the state’s own Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator. Landrieu also reportedly suggested that governors create task forces modeled after the Infrastructure Implementation Task Force created by President Biden in November.

The role of these positions will help integrate aspects of the bill, including funding, alongside departments responsible for transportation, water, broadband and energy investments for projects.

In February, the White House released the first edition of its Bipartisan Infrastructure Law guidebook that contains a comprehensive list of the more than 375 programs and available funding included in the law.

Acting as a “roadmap” for the funding available under the law, as well as an explanatory document that shows direct federal spending at the program level, the 465-page guidebook outlines 12 chapters grouping the programs by area

Of the 375 programs, 125 are new, with 60% of the funds are available through formula and 40% are through competitive applications. Future phases of the guidebook are expected to update dates and timelines for program implementation, best practices, case studies and links to key resources.

In April, the Biden Administration announced that projects funded by the bipartisan infrastructure law will be required to use only iron and steel produced in the United States. The Buy America Act, included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, aims to support the country’s industrial base, protect national security and support jobs.

The requirement went into effect on May 14.


Tagged categories: Environmental Control; Environmental Controls; Government; Government contracts; Green Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; President Biden; Program/Project Management; Quality Control; Upcoming projects

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