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Home arrowNews arrowMay 19, 2014

White House Announces New Initiative to Modernize Infrastructure Permitting

On May 14, 2014, the White House announced the “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure: Modernizing Infrastructure Permitting” initiative. This includes the release of a comprehensive plan to accelerate and expand permitting reform government-wide. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) contributed to the development of this plan as a member of the Steering Committee established to improve environmental reviews under Executive Order 13604, “Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects.”

The Administration’s plan adopts the best practices learned from the initial focus infrastructure projects and calls on federal agencies to apply those practices going forward. By turning best practice into common practice, these reforms will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal permitting and review of all major infrastructure projects, including reviews conducted in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The plan identifies the following reforms:

  • Improving Interagency Coordination to Increase Decision Making Speed;
  • Synchronizing Reviews;
  • Driving Accountability and Transparency through the Online Permitting Dashboard; and
  • Launching an Interagency Permitting Center to Institutionalize Reforms.

This initiative and accompanying implementation plan is the result of a Presidential Memorandum issued on May 17, 2013, that charged the interagency Steering Committee with developing a plan to put best practices to work in a systematic and permanent way across the government. The Steering Committee is comprised of 12 agencies including the ACHP, Departments of Agriculture, Army (represented by the Corps of Engineers), Commerce (represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), Defense, Energy, Homeland Security (represented by the U.S Coast Guard), Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, and Transportation, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation, Office of Management and Budget, and Council on Environmental Quality.

The implementation plan institutionalizes best practices in the Section 106 process by encouraging coordination of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 106 compliance processes and substitution of NEPA for Section 106, where appropriate (in accordance with the Section 106 regulations at 36 CFR Part 800). It also establishes a milestone for the ACHP to develop guidance on e-106 (using electronic means to communicate in the Section 106 process) and calls for the ACHP and the National Park Service to develop the framework for a nationwide inventory of historic properties that provides readily accessible information on known historic properties. Further, the plan cites ACHP initiatives such as the Applicant Toolkit and the forthcoming Guidance on Agreement Documents as important tools to further the Administration’s goals and implementation of the plan.

A detailed description of the initiative and a full copy of the implementation plan are available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/05/14/fact-sheet-building-21st-century-infrastructure-modernizing-infrastructu.

 

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