DALLAS – President Donald Trump issued an executive order Tuesday aimed at cutting the regulatory review process for infrastructure projects to two years at the most.
It was the third executive order on infrastructure that Trump has issued since he became president in January, with the other two also touching on accelerating the permit process.
The current review process for environmental and other regulatory permits is “disgraceful” and a “massive, self-inflicted wound” that can take decades to plow through, Trump said during a brief press conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City.
“We have a badly broken permitting system,” Trump said. “Not only does this cost our economy billions of dollars but it also denies our citizens the safe and modern infrastructure they deserve.”
The permitting process is often deliberately lengthy and difficult to understand, Trump said.
“No longer will we accept a broken system that benefits consultants and lobbyists at the expense of hardworking Americans,” he said.
“While protecting the environment, we will build gleaming new roads, bridges, railways, waterways, tunnels and highways,” Trump said. “We will rebuild our country with American workers, American iron, American aluminum, American steel.”
The order calls for infrastructure projects to have a single federal agency as the lead that would be held accountable for any delays in it, he said.
“So 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. We're not going to approve it.”
The “One Federal Policy” would include a comprehensive schedule for a project, with senior agency officials being notified if a milestone was missed or the schedule extended, according to briefing material provided to reporters.
“We will build quickly and relatively inexpensively, and the permitting will go quickly,” Trump said.
“The policy of “One Federal Decision” will make the federal government speak with one voice regarding the environmental review and permitting of a major infrastructure project,” the handout said.
The order directs the Office of Management and Budget to establish a cross-agency priority goal for environmental reviews and permits for infrastructure projects. OMB will develop a quarterly scorecard, with progress reports be posted online at performance.gov.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the order, “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects,” removes regulatory roadblocks to ensure a faster and more efficient permitting process for major infrastructure projects.
“The average environmental review takes nearly five years, and infrastructure projects can be subject to at least 65 different requirements and permits,” said Chao, who stood beside Trump at the signing event. “We’ve identified more than two dozen policies and rules that will streamline project delivery and environmental permitting.”
Chao formed a special task force in June of representatives from several federal agencies to streamline the permitting process.
After his statement, Trump asked for questions and was besieged by questions from reporters that focused almost entirely on President Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.
Trump signed an executive order soon after his January inauguration that called for coordination by the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality of “expedited procedures and deadlines for completion of environmental reviews and approvals.” The order covered infrastructure projects designated as a high priority by a governor or the head of a federal department or agency.
In July, President Trump signed another executive order creating a 15-member Presidential Advisory Committee on Infrastructure to study the scope and effectiveness of federal infrastructure funding.