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The trucking industry and other stakeholders are backing a White House proposal meant to streamline the environmental approval process for infrastructure projects.
On Jan. 9, the Council on Environmental Quality issued a proposed rulemaking aimed at updating National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, regulations. The move is designed to incorporate a one-federal-decision approach to permitting, which has long been a priority for the administration.
Among those in attendance during the proposal’s formal announcement at the White House on Jan. 9 was American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear, who noted that the proposal could help address the congestion issues that choke the nation’s highways.
“The degradation of our nation’s aging highway infrastructure contributes to the more than $70 billion in congestion costs borne by the trucking industry alone and poses serious safety consequences for all motorists, including truckers,” he said in a statement. “We applaud President Trump and his administration for their efforts to streamline the project approval process — injecting much-needed sanity into efforts to modernize our infrastructure while also reducing project delivery time and costs, insuring that precious resources aren’t frittered away on bureaucratic box-checking when they could be going to pay for U.S.-made steel, asphalt and concrete.”
The Council on Environmental Quality’s objective is to reduce paperwork and possible delays to the federal decision-making process associated with infrastructure projects.
Infrastructure funding proponents representing various sectors also applauded the administration’s move.
“It can take up to seven years to complete the environmental review process for a new federal-aid project. That’s too long,” said Dave Bauer, president of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. “The Trump administration’s commonsense reforms will help speed up the delivery of U.S. transportation infrastructure projects. 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.”
“President [Donald] Trump is once again taking action to power our industry — and our economy — forward. The NAM’s ‘Building to Win’ infrastructure plan called for exactly this type of modernization — because our efforts should be used for building the infrastructure Americans desperately need, not wasted on mountains of paperwork and endless delays,” noted National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons.
Trump shared the motivation behind the proposal at the event with stakeholders.
“America is a nation of builders. It took four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge, five years to build the Hoover Dam, and less than one year — can you believe that? — to build the Empire State Building,” Trump said on Jan. 9. “Yet today, it can take more than 10 years just to get a permit to build a simple road — just a very simple road. And usually, you’re not even able to get the permit. It’s unusual when you get it. It’s big government at its absolute worst, and other countries look at us and they can’t believe it.”
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was among the top administration officials backing the proposal.
“Commonsense reforms in simplifying and streamlining environmental reviews will accelerate the construction of much-needed roads, bridges, transit, railroad and port projects to alleviate congestion and improve the quality of life for communities across the country,” she said.
National Association of Realtors President Vince Malta added, “The National Association of Realtors is confident that the reforms announced today will remove the barriers standing in the way of infrastructure improvements that stimulate economic growth and create jobs. We look forward to partnering with the White House as it works to implement these changes in the most responsible and effective way possible.”
Public comments via the Federal Register will be accepted through March 10.
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