AGC’s head of Environmental Law and Policy Leah Pilconis testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works at a hearing entitled “Infrastructure Project Streamlining and Efficiency: Achieving Faster, Better, and Cheaper Results.” AGC took the opportunity to discuss many of the ideas in its new document “Reforms for Improving Federal Environmental Review and Permitting,” which were well received.
AGC focused on three of its recommendations at this hearing. First, Congress should require a nationwide merger of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting processes, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issuing a 404 permit at the end of the NEPA process, based on the information generated by NEPA. Data show these processes take the longest, are the most costly, and are subject to the most disagreements.
Second, the monitoring, mitigation and other environmental planning work performed during the NEPA process, and included the final Environmental Impact Statement / Record of Decision, must satisfy federal environmental permitting requirements unless there is a material change in the project. Time and money is wasted on redoing project analyses and reviews and on collecting duplicate information from permit applicants.
And third, Congress must consider a reasonable and measured approach to citizen suit reform to prevent misuse of environmental laws. These lawsuits can take years to resolve and, in far too many cases, litigation impedes projects that are vital to the renovation and improvement of our nation’s infrastructure. AGC will continue to advocate in Congress and with the Administration for additional infrastructure funding and additional environmental permit reform as new opportunities arise.