RAPID Act Would Unleash Stalled Projects

Apr 25, 2012

Bill Kovacs, U.S. Chamber Senior Vice President for Environment, Technology, and Regulatory Affairs, testifies before Congress.

Untold numbers of projects wait to be finished (or even started) because of a permitting process that’s as fast as a glacier in an Alaskan winter. For example, John Gordon Steele points out that it has taken 13 years (and counting) to study dredging the Savannah, GA harbor to let it accept large ships that will pass through the soon-to-be-expanded Panama Canal. The U.S. Chamber’s Project No Project lists hundreds of energy projects stymied by a broken permitting process. These delays cost time, money, and jobs.

Today, Bill Kovacs, Senior Vice President, Environment, Technology, and Regulatory Affairs at the U.S. Chamber, testified before the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial, and Administrative Law in support of the “Responsibly And Professionally Invigorating Development (RAPID) Act.” The bill would help developers obtain environmental permits and approvals in a timely and efficient manner.

Kovacs told the subcommittee that permitting delays have been significant. From 1998 to 2006, the time it took to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) ranged from 51 days to 18.4 years with an average span of 3.4 years.  With each passing year, the average time to complete an EIS increased by 37 days.

According to Kovacs, there have been bipartisan calls for permit process streamlining. Twenty-six bills have been introduced in this Congress, the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness “has called for strong action to simplify regulatory review and streamline project approvals,” and in January’s State of the Union address, President Obama announced that he would “sign an Executive Order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects,” Kovacs told the subcommittee.  That Executive Order, issued in March, takes small steps to force agencies to work together, but more is needed.

The RAPID Act would improve the permitting process through such reforms as:

  • Designating one agency to lead on processing permits and approvals.
  • Encouraging agencies and stakeholders to get involved early in the process.
  • Accepting reviews from state regulatory agencies to avoid duplication.
  • Consolidating Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) and Environmental Assessments (EA) into single reviews to remove duplicative work.
  • Creating a schedule for EIS and EA with reasonable deadlines.

Stalled projects like dredging the Savannah harbor mean lost job-creating opportunities. The RAPID Act would reduce these barriers to help create jobs and grow the economy.

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