August 2017


Trump, Chao Unveil Executive Order to Expedite Infrastructure Permit Process



By Kevan Stone
     NACo Associate Legislative Director, Transportation

     Christopher Harvey
     NACo Legislative Assistant

On August 15, President Donald Trump announced an Executive Order (EO) to streamline the permit and approval processes for infrastructure projects. While signing the EO, the President, joined by U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, touted his goal of cutting red-tape and regulatory burdens, which can cost counties significant time and money to navigate. County infrastructure development will be substantially impacted by this EO, as we own 45 percent of public roads, 39 percent of the nation’s bridges and a third of all airports and transit systems.

Under this new EO, major infrastructure projects will require only one federal decision for permitting approval, rather than the current process under which projects must meet requirements set by multiple federal agencies. For each project, a designated federal agency will take the lead in ensuring other federal agencies are completing environmental reviews and issuing permitting decisions. Each agency will be required to sign a joint “Record of Decision,” and all required federal environmental permits must be issued by each agency within 90 days of signing this Record.

The EO also sets a goal of two years to complete the permitting process for every project. Additionally, the EO directs the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to develop and implement an action plan to improve environmental reviews government-wide.

In addition to infrastructure streamlining, the EO partly repeals a 2015 directive from the Obama Administration ordering the federal government to consider flood risks when major infrastructure projects are being planned, including the those related to the “predicted rise of sea levels and more frequent severe storms associated with climate change.”

NACo continues to advocate for streamlining of the permitting and regulatory process, both within the administration and through Congress. Earlier this year, NACo was the only local government organization invited to meet with President Trump’s Special Advisor for Infrastructure at the White House to discuss regulatory impediments to project completion. Additionally, we organized and participated in the U.S. House of Representative’s Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs Roundtable to find solutions to ease regulatory restrictions.

We look forward to continuing to work with our federal partners to ensure counties have the tools and flexibility necessary to improve our nation’s infrastructure while remaining good stewards of taxpayer resources and the environment.

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