Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council and the FAST-41 Process
The ACHP serves as a member of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council), created by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. the Permitting Council plays a key role in implementing specific provisions in Title 41 of the FAST Act that apply to certain types of major infrastructure projects. The FAST-41 process was designed to improve the timeliness, predictability, and transparency of the federal environmental review and authorization process for covered infrastructure projects. FAST-41 provides for improving the federal coordination of environmental reviews, including Section 106 reviews, but does not alter an agency's responsibility to comply with Section 106 or change the requirements or timeframes in the ACHP's regulations or an existing Section 106 Programmatic Agreement. Federal agencies develop permitting timetables for projects that follow the FAST-41 process. Milestones for environmental review and other information about covered projects are publicly tracked on the Federal Permitting Dashboard.
Federal Permitting Dashboard
The Permitting Dashboard is an online tool for federal agencies, project developers and interested members of the public to track the federal government’s permitting and review process for large or complex infrastructure projects, including those in the FAST-41 review process and those subject to One Federal Decision (see below).
Recommended Best Practices
On April 26, the Permitting Council released a report on Recommended Best Practices for Environmental Reviews and Authorizations for Infrastructure Projects for Fiscal Year 2019. This year's best practices build on two prior years' work by member agencies to continuously improve the transparency, accountability, and predictability of infrastructure permitting processes.
Permitting Council FY18 Annual Report
The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council recently provided a report to Congress on the progress its member agencies, including the ACHP, have made in improving the efficiency, predictability, and transparency of federal environmental reviews and authorizations for infrastructure projects during FY 2018. The report was prepared pursuant to Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Agencies have achieved these gains by applying recommended permitting best practices highlighted on an annual basis by the Permitting Council as required by the FAST Act. The report reflects the ACHP's contributions in developing training and sharing lessons learned with federal partners.
Online Tool Assists with Involving Indian Tribes Early in Section 106 Review Process
The Tribal Directory Assistance Tool (TDAT), developed and administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Environment and Energy (HUD) is a web-based tribal contact database containing information about the geographic areas of current and ancestral interest to federally recognized Indian tribes. Read more.
One Federal Decision
On April 9, 2018, an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) implementing the One Federal Decision policy of EO 13807 was finalized. The EO directed the Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Environmental Quality to develop a framework for implementing One Federal Decision in consultation with the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council), of which the ACHP is a member. The ACHP is a signatory to the MOU.
One Federal Decision anticipates that major infrastructure projects subject to federal approvals will be guided by a lead federal agency coordinating all required federal environmental reviews and authorization decisions and result in a unified federal decision (i.e., a single Record of Decision, or ROD), with limited exceptions. It also addresses the EO’s goal of reducing the time to complete environmental reviews and permitting decisions for such projects to an agency average of no more than two years. Major infrastructure projects are those requiring multiple authorizations for which an Environmental Impact Statement will be prepared and for which “the project sponsor has identified the reasonable availability of funds sufficient to complete the project.”
The MOU directs lead agencies to develop permitting timetables for major infrastructure projects, coordinate with other federal agencies on the preparation of a single Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision, and have in place procedures for elevating disputes about environmental reviews. One Federal Decision does not alter the requirements of Section 106 or other environmental laws but rather aims to better synchronize review processes across the federal government.
Executive Order 13807: Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure
On August 15, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13807, “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure,” with the goal of increasing the coordination, predictability, and transparency of the federal environmental review and 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.”
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, see below). 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. It will heighten awareness of and agency accountability for meeting permitting timetables, including milestones for Section 106 reviews, for major infrastructure projects.
Certain provisions of EO 13807 require development of further guidance by the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget. The ACHP will post updates on this page.
Improving Tribal Consultation in Federal Infrastructure Decisions
The ACHP participated in the interagency consultation process led by the Departments of the Army, Interior, and Justice to identify opportunities for more effectively consulting Indian tribes on infrastructure projects and has prepared a report, Improving Tribal Consultation in Infrastructure Projects, with recommendations specific to the Section 106 process in response to comments offered by Indian tribes. The ACHP’s report is a companion publication to an interagency report on Improving Tribal Consultation and Tribal Involvement in Federal Infrastructure Decisions released in January 2017 in response to the listening sessions.
Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Transmission Siting on Federal Lands
The ACHP and eight other federal agencies developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding siting of transmission lines on federal lands in 2009. The MOU establishes a protocol among land managing agencies regarding the designation of a lead agency when multiple agencies are involved in a project. The MOU commits the ACHP to working cooperatively with participating agencies to ensure that these projects are fully considered under Section 106 of the NHPA without unnecessary delay.