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New Infrastructure Executive Order

On Aug. 15, the President issued the Presidential Executive Order on Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure, with the goal of increasing the coordination, predictability, and transparency of federal environmental review and the permitting process for infrastructure projects. The EO directs federal agencies to complete their environmental reviews of “major infrastructure projects” within an average of two years, guided by a lead agency that coordinates all required federal environmental reviews to result in “one federal decision.” “Major infrastructure projects” are those requiring multiple federal authorizations for which an agency prepares an Environmental Impact Statement in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Several provisions in the EO align with ongoing efforts to improve permitting processes, such as Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST-41). This legislation established the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Council) to oversee and coordinate federal agency efforts to expedite the approval of major infrastructure projects. The ACHP is a member of the Council. The EO reinforces and builds upon requirements in FAST-41 for federal agencies to identify and implement best practices in their environmental review processes, prepare project-specific permitting timetables, and coordinate or synchronize federal environmental reviews to the extent possible.

The ACHP anticipates the EO will sharpen the focus on agency pre-application procedures and guidance, the importance of applicants carrying out sufficient planning efforts, and decision-making about when an application is ready for federal review in order to expedite an agency’s review of an application. These are areas the ACHP has previously identified as offering opportunities for improving agency compliance with Section 106 and addressing historic preservation concerns earlier in the planning process.

Certain provisions of the EO require development of further guidance by the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget. This presents opportunities for greater awareness of how NEPA reviews and Section 106 can be integrated and the importance of initiating Section 106 consultation early in the project planning process. The ACHP will keep Section 106 practitioners and stakeholders apprised of further efforts in this area.

We invite you to visit the recently launched web page on infrastructure issues on the ACHP website, “Section 106 and Infrastructure.” This page will be regularly updated. If you have specific questions about the EO or the ACHP’s initiatives, please contact Blythe Semmer (bsemmer@achp.gov).

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