Hurricanes Present New Challenge to Trump’s Fast-Track Permit Plan

The Washington Examiner discusses the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan in the wake of recent hurricanes with Myron Ebell.

The Trump administration, wanting to rebuild America’s infrastructure as quickly as possible, has issued several executive orders to streamline the permitting and environmental review process for federally funded projects.

But environmentalists, legal experts, and some lawmakers are now questioning the wisdom of these measures in the wake of major flooding and destruction caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“The Trump administration is exactly right that there are huge delays in the permitting process and these delays make it very difficult to finish a project,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Examiner. “Even though the project may eventually be approved, environmental pressure groups have been successful in twisting the process in such a way that litigation can be almost endless.”

Environmental studies are required by the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

The Council on Environmental Quality, a White House division that oversees reviews required by NEPA, issued guidelines in 1978 meant to limit the length of environmental impact statements to 150 pages or 300 pages for complex projects. But reviews in recent years regularly number in the thousands of pages, experts say.

Ebell, who led Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team, says these delays threaten to undermine the president’s overall infrastructure investment agenda.

“His infrastructure plan, assuming he gets Congress to go along with several billions of new spending, will never happen if he can’t figure out how to get these projects through the permitting process,” Ebell said. “His plan depends upon the successes of these administrative procedural reforms.”

Read the full article at The Washington Examiner.