Permitting Council FY20 Annual Report
The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council recently provided a report to Congress on 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 2020. 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 programmatic review approaches and providing advice and training on early coordination with Indian tribes for infrastructure projects.
Recommended Best Practices
On April 23, 2021, the Permitting Council released a report on Recommended Best Practices for Environmental Reviews and Authorizations for Infrastructure Projects for Fiscal Year 2021. The best practices provide 12 recommendations to federal agencies for making improvements in infrastructure project review and permitting processes.
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.
Improving Tribal Consultation and Early Coordination in Federal Infrastructure Decisions
The ACHP participated in an 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.
The ACHP also published Early Coordination with Indian Tribes During Pre-application Processes: A Handbook, which provides background information on the Section 106 process for applicant-driven projects and offers suggestions for federal agencies, industry, and Indian tribes to work collaboratively and effectively in pre-application planning. The document includes best practices from an Indian tribe, an energy company, and a state transportation agency.
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.