March 11, 2019

Why Is Permitting Reform A Key Component Of Infrastructure Development?

On March 6, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing entitled, “Our Nation’s Crumbling Infrastructure And The Need For Immediate Action.” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Gregory DiLoretro of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and Chris Spear of the American Trucking Associations served as witnesses for the hearing. While the witnesses all called for additional public and private sector investment, they also focused on the regulatory side of infrastructure development. Donohue argued, “[Y]ou can line up all the cash you need, but if the permitting process is slow or broken – there’s no point in doing an infrastructure deal.” He concluded, “Any proposal that fails to reform the permitting system won’t have the Chamber’s support.”

Prior to the hearing, committee Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Calif.) sent a letter to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), that also argued that the first step toward addressing the country’s infrastructure need is to revise rules for project approvals. Rep. Brady said the current process takes too long and costs too much. Click here to read the full letter.

In related news: the National Association of Manufacturers last week released “Building to Win,” a blueprint to repair U.S. roads, bridges, rails, airports, ports, and waterways. NAM argued the plan would help “manufacturers better serve their customers, create millions of jobs, and pave the way for the success of the next generation.” Permitting reform also was addressed in this report.

In addition to asking for Congress to “streamline regulations to reduce the cost of delayed infrastructure,” the report asks lawmakers to:

  • Implement strong accountability measures to ensure funds go to projects offering the greatest value for businesses, families and the economy.
  • Relieve highway bottlenecks and repair America’s crumbling highways and bridges.
  • Create a reliable, user-based, long-term funding stream so users can have the safe, efficient highways needed.
  • Accelerate the implementation of NextGen air traffic management technology and upgrade our runways and airports to world-class standards.
  • Take an expedited approach to deepen ports, upgrade aging locks and enhance intermodal connections by spending the balance in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
  • Eliminate the maintenance backlog for public transit, commuter rail and passenger rail.
  • Promote regulatory and fiscal policies that incentivize continued record levels of private capital reinvestment in our railroads.
  • Create an independent, bipartisan transportation commission to spark a policy discussion and oversee a national strategic plan for investments.
  • Promote new energy infrastructure investments as a means of improving U.S. infrastructure’s resilience to climate change.
  • Robustly expand public–private partnerships for drinking and wastewater projects.
  • Streamline regulatory processes across multiple agencies and levels of government to foster the use of next generation communications infrastructure such as cutting-edge broadband or 5G technologies.

Click here to read the full report and stay tuned to Connecting the Dots for the latest on how the debate over infrastructure is advancing on Capitol Hill.