CA Aims to Streamline Infrastructure Projects


On Friday (May 19), California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed plans for new permitting and project review reforms to help streamline and implement infrastructure projects.

The proposals are expected to help streamline project approval and completion to “maximize California’s share of federal infrastructure dollars and expedite the implementation of projects that meet the state’s ambitious economic, climate, and social goals.”

About the Reforms

According to the release, California reportedly plans to invest up to $180 billion over the next 10 years in clean infrastructure, thanks to funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act. The latest proposal also anticipates to create 400,000 jobs in the process.

Newsom’s plan will reportedly also allow state agencies to use new types of contracts, in hopes of helping to maximize taxpayer dollars and speed up the timeline of projects in the state of California. It will also ensure appropriate environmental review and community engagement.

The announcement follows a report from earlier in the week from Infrastructure Advisor of California and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and California Forward that urged permitting reform.

The proposals are expected to:

  • Cut project timelines by more than three years;
  • Save businesses and state and local governments hundreds of millions of dollars; and
  • Reduce paperwork by hundreds of thousands of pages.

On the same day as the announcement, Governor Newsom also reportedly signed an executive order to establish a strike team in order to accelerate clean infrastructure projects. The team is expected to implement an “all-of-government strategy for planning and development.”

Together, this legislative package and executive order plans to:

  • Speed up construction;
  • Expedite Court Review;
  • Streamline Permitting;
  • Address Cumbersome CEQA processes; and
  • Maximize Federal Dollars.

“The only way to achieve California’s world-leading climate goals is to build, build, build—faster. This proposal is the most ambitious effort to cut red tape and streamline regulations in half a century,” said Newsom.

“It’s time to make the most out of taxpayer dollars and deliver results while creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs. Not since the Pat Brown era have we had the opportunity to invest in and rebuild this state to create the clean future Californians deserve.”

Examples of projects that could potentially be streamlined include:

  • Hundreds of solar, wind, and battery storage projects;
  • Transit and regional rail construction;
  • Clean transportation, including maintenance and bridge projects;
  • Water storage projects funded by Proposition 1;
  • Delta Conveyance Project;
  • Semiconductor fabrication plants; and
  • Wildlife crossings along the I-15 corridor.

The legislation will reportedly build on the administration’s actions to reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The proposal also states that it “complements actions the Governor and the Legislature have taken to streamline state laws to maximize housing production, with 20 CEQA reform bills signed into law in recent years.”

Permitting Reform Across the Country

In August last year, the City of San Diego presented a proposed package of reforms to streamline infrastructure projects and help speed up construction and lower costs if approved by the city council. Additionally, the proposal would boost transparency to the public by providing more information about which firms complete city work and how much they receive.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the cost of a project would have to be much higher for City Council approval to be required, far fewer cost increases for projects would require council approval, and consultants could work on more projects and accumulate more fees without an approval from the council.

City officials would also be required to provide residents more information about upcoming projects, such as precise timelines and impacts on traffic.

It is estimated that a typical project would be completed four to six months faster under the reforms, with the cost being lowered due to less time being spent preparing for proposals for approvals. This will also allow city officials to work on other projects more quickly.

A few months earlier, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive to streamline the state’s permitting process for infrastructure projects of $50 million or more. According to the directive, the Michigan Infrastructure Office will convene interested departments to create a coordinated permitting plan for the review of applications for state permits once a covered project is identified. Departments will then create a publicly available permitting schedule, allocate roles and responsibilities and establish a plan for public outreach.

Additionally, departments and agencies will review their own and other permitting schedules to identify any areas in which they can avoid duplication, streamline processes and share information to expedite the review of permits.

More recently, earlier this month, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a new set of plans to pass as a part of bipartisan permitting reform legislation. The plans arrive almost one year after the White House's Permitting Action Plan was released.

According to the White House, these actions are anticipated to create new union jobs, combat climate change, grow the economy and lower costs. The Administration has outlined a list of recommendations that could help speed up the permitting process, including:

  • Improve permitting efficiency and predictability;
  • Enhance data collection needed for effective permitting;
  • Cut duplicative and burdensome analysis and reviews;
  • Improve community engagement;
  • Address gaps in permitting workforce;
  • Establish clearer requirements for mitigating environmental harms; and
  • Incentivize state and local permitting reform and standardization.

The Biden-Harris Administration also states that necessary permits, reviews and approvals must be robust and completed within a reasonable timeframe. To aid in this process, the administration urges Congress to act and improve coordination of federal data sharing, expand the use of programmatic and tiered reviews and reduce the length of federal decision documents.

Streamlining this process will also reportedly include the enhancement of data collection. The White House notes that the systems used by many agencies today are either outdated or rely on paper systems. To combat this, the White House also reports it is pushing for the development of automated, joint electronic permit application for federal agencies.

Additionally, the process for streamlining reportedly includes actions to recruit and retain a permitting workforce and to provide financial benefits for states that are willing to adopt best practices to accelerate the delivery of public and privately funded projects.



Tagged categories: Construction chemicals; Government; Government contracts; Green Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Jobs; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Upcoming projects

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