U.S. Agencies Agree to Shorten Environmental Reviews for New Infrastructure

A dozen U.S. agencies have agreed to cut the time needed to do environmental reviews on new infrastructure projects, the Trump administration announced. The memorandum fulfills the administration’s pledge to speed up the permitting process for new development.

Agencies executing the faster review time include the departments of Energy, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Homeland Security, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among others. The agreement implements an executive order by President Trump last August to finish the review process for new public works projects within two years.

Previously, the environmental impact of proposed infrastructure had to be assessed by multiple agencies — a process that could take up to a decade to complete, according to Bloomberg News. In February, President Trump released a $1.5 trillion legislative plan — $200 billion of which would come from federal coffers, the rest from state and local governments — to repair and expand U.S. infrastructure, from roadways to railways to airports.

The new memorandum, signed by agency heads and cabinet secretaries today, will streamline the process by having just one lead federal agency shepherd projects through the environmental review and permitting. Instead of multiple assessments, agencies will work together to create a single environmental impact statement for each project, Reuters reported.

Green groups and some Democrats have expressed concern that a streamlined process could weaken environmental protections, allowing infrastructure projects and construction on fragile or ecologically important land. But Alex Herrgott, associate director of infrastructure at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said at an event in January that the administration “has no desire to erode traditional environmental protections or roll back or strip protections.”

“We’re trying to fix the problem,” he said.