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Secretary Chao Commits to Continue Improvements to Infrastructure Review and Permitting Process

Monday, April 9, 2018

Today, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao joined President Trump and other cabinet officials in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) committing their departments to following the President’s One Federal Decision framework for processing environmental reviews and permits for major infrastructure projects.

The White House provided more information on the agreement here.

“The Department has been vigorously implementing the President’s “One Federal Decision” policy since last August to reduce costs and unnecessary burdens that have long delayed infrastructure projects, said Secretary Chao. “It is essential for all Federal resource agencies to work together to cut red tape and deliver infrastructure and safety improvements more rapidly and spurring economic growth.”

Under the MOU, the agencies commit to working together to make the necessary environmental and permitting decisions for major infrastructure projects with a goal to complete the entire process within 2 years.  In general, the MOU commits agencies to processing their reviews in accordance with the following 4 principles:

  1. Establish a Lead Federal Agency for the Complete Process. Under the current process, project sponsors are responsible for navigating the decision-making processes of multiple Federal agencies.  Under the MOU, Federal agencies agree to establish one Lead Federal Agency that will navigate the Federal environmental review and permitting process.
  2. Commitment to Meeting the Lead Federal Agency’s Permitting Timetable. Under the current process, agencies are not generally required to follow a comprehensive permitting timetable.  Under the MOU, Federal agencies agree to follow the permitting timetables established by the Lead Federal Agency with the goal of completing the process to 2 years.
  3. Commitment to Conduct the Necessary Review Processes Concurrently. Under the current process, agencies may conduct their own environmental review and permitting processes sequentially resulting in unnecessary delay, redundant analysis, and revisiting of decisions.  Under the MOU, Federal agencies agree to conducting their processes at the same time and relying on the analysis prepared by the Lead Federal Agency to the maximum extent possible.
  4. Automatic Elevation of Interagency Disputes. Under the current process, interagency disputes sometimes linger for years in agency field offices before being elevated and resolved.  Under the MOU, Federal agencies agree that interagency disputes will be automatically elevated and expeditiously resolved.

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of his Cabinet, from left to right, Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow; Mick Mulvaney the Director of the Office of Management and Budget; U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen; U.S. Administrator of the  Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt; U.S. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke; U. S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson; U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao; U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross; U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue; Assistant to the President Ivanka Trump ; Secretary of the U.S. Army, Mark T. Esper and Assistant Secretary of U.S. Army Ricky  “R.D.” James,  holds the signed One Federal Decision Memorandum of Understanding in the Oval Office at the White House, Monday, April 9, 2018, in Washington, D.C., which establishes a coordinated and timely process for environmental reviews of major infrastructure projects. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)