Westerman Celebrates Historic Permitting Reform Wins
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 31, 2023 | Committee Press Office (202-225-2761)
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which included much of U.S. Rep. Garret Graves' (R-La.) Building U.S. Infrastructure through Limited Delays and Efficient Reviews (BUILDER) Act. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) issued the following statement in response:
"On top of cutting spending, clawing back Covid funds and several other conservative victories, this is the biggest permitting win we've accomplished in decades. Lengthy review processes are costing the American taxpayer trillions of dollars just on public infrastructure projects, not to mention the unknown costs of delayed energy and mining production and lost jobs. By fixing the root cause of our issues - cumbersome and outdated permitting regulations - we are giving every American cause to celebrate. The only people who stand to lose are the serial litigants that have lined their pockets by weaponizing environmental laws for their own personal gain. This legislation slashes bureaucratic red tape that has held communities back for years. I'm honored to have championed the BUILDER Act in our committee both on its own and as part of H.R. 1. I look forward to coming back to the negotiating table in a bipartisan manner to enact even more reforms and drive our nation forward."
Project applicants have faced uncertainty in the environmental review process for decades. This impacts community and job creation projects across all sectors of the American economy, resulting in major cost overruns and delayed community benefits. For instance, local governments may spend up to 25 percent more on necessary projects like infrastructure upgrades if the project has to go through NEPA review.
The average time to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and issue a decision for a project is 4.5 years, and 25 percent of EISs take more than six years. For some projects, unfortunately, this process may take a decade or more. In contrast, it took less than one year to build the Empire State Building. One estimate in 2018 found that the cost of a six-year delay in infrastructure projects across the electricity transmission, power generation, inland waterways, roads, bridges, rail and water sectors is $3.9 trillion.
When the Trump administration issued regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Council on Environmental Quality concluded in its Regulatory Impact Analysis that creating two-year timelines for EISs could save $744 million in administrative costs over nine years.
The permitting provisions in the Fiscal Responsibility Act will increase efficiency and certainty in the NEPA process, thereby enabling agencies to approve projects with less red tape and providing more tools to project applicants to move their projects forward and hold agencies accountable.
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