Construction Industry interests salute Environmental Policy Act streamlining

The Portland Cement Association and National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association are among 35 members of Unlocking American Investment, a new U.S. Chamber of Commerce-led coalition supporting National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) revisions that will help cut typical infrastructure project permitting phases by more than 50 percent against current metrics.

NEPA requires federal agencies to evaluate environmental impact of road and bridge, rail and water infrastructure, and conventional or renewable energy projects. Unlocking American Investment and other critics note, however, that the regulation has not seen a comprehensive update since 1978. Per a President Donald Trump directive, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to address NEPA aspects resulting in protracted processes for obtaining environmental impact statements (EIS) on most infrastructure jobs. CEQ data indicate that EIS completion can average 4.5 years and, for many highway projects, six-plus years.

“NEPA modernization will reduce the average time to complete an EIS in part through increased interagency coordination within the Federal government,” the White House notes. “Sponsors must often acquire approval from various agencies on permitting decisions in order to advance their project. NEPA serves as the umbrella statute for coordinating environmental reviews. In the past, reviews for projects involving multiple permits were conducted sequentially instead of concurrently and in some cases there was insufficient coordination among agencies.”

CEQ-proposed NEPA updates would codify President Trump’s One Federal Decision policy, which improves agency coordination and communication and sets a two-year average goal for completion of major infrastructure project environmental reviews. The Council published its proposed revisions last month in the Federal Register, opening a 60-day public comment period for Unlocking American Investment and other proponents to weigh in on NEPA modernization. Joining PCA and NSSGA in the coalition are the Associated Builders & Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America and American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

“The Trump administration’s commonsense reforms will help speed up the delivery of U.S. transportation infrastructure projects,” affirms ARTBA President Dave Bauer. “Streamlining the NEPA process is essential to assuring that the government is making every transportation dollar go as far as possible while preserving a commitment to our environment.”