External Policy Studies Federal Government Affairs

Improving Environmental Outcomes from Infrastructure by Addressing Permitting Delays

Philip Rossetti
Resident Senior Fellow, Energy

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With the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress together pursuing major infrastructure investments, there is an important question as to how best maximize potential economic and environmental benefits of new infrastructure. Reforming the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is one of the most straightforward and impactful ways to do so. Currently, many major infrastructure projects are delayed due to significant, NEPA-mandated requirements for environmental-impact review. Such delays are frequently exacerbated by vague statutory requirements and exceptional litigation risks. Updated guidance for environmental reviews under NEPA, coupled with strategic judiciary reforms, could expedite infrastructure approval while improving environmental outcomes.

Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration should strive to clarify environmental regulatory requirements and standing for litigation under NEPA. Specific recommended actions include (i) establishing well-defined and transparent processes for public input on governmental environmental-impact statements, (ii) shortening the statute of limitations for litigation under NEPA from two years to 60–120 days, and (iii) requiring that plaintiffs against governmental records of decision must have previously submitted public input on relevant environmental-impact statements.

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