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Graves Leads National Effort to Modernize Permitting

September 22, 2020
Press Release
Legislation would expedite infrastructure projects, create jobs and stimulate economy

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) Graves introduced today the Building U.S. Infrastructure through Limited Delays & Efficient Reviews (BUILDER) Act (H.R. 8333) to modernize the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to expedite infrastructure project reviews to improve efficiency, reduce project costs, spur economic recovery and rebuild America. If modernized, Louisiana’s coastal restoration projects, transportation projects and energy infrastructure priorities would stand to benefit if fast tracked – stimulating economic development and job opportunities.

“We have an obligation to protect our natural resources for future generations and the majority of projects that are carried out across our country are sensitive to the environment even if exempt from the National Environmental Policy Act. But when NEPA is applied, the outdated process often becomes an obstacle to protecting the very people and resources it is supposed to be serving,” said Graves. “Whether we are working to restore coastal wetlands or improve infrastructure, it is taking longer to conduct a NEPA review than it does to actually carry out projects. This delays progress and diverts money from solutions to bureaucracies. The legal red tape is not working for the environment and it is not working the people.  Our legislation fixes that by updating the 50-year old law to remain focused on the goal of protecting the environment while eliminating obstacles to progress.”

Graves’ bill, which codifies many of the actions taken by this Administration earlier this year, is backed by the Ranking Members of multiple U.S. House committees and the Republican Leadership of the U.S. House.

Quotes below from Republican Leadership of the U.S. House:

“Americans deserve infrastructure built for the 21st century, which is why it is a key component of House Republicans’ Commitment to America agenda,” said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).  “In order to effectively deliver on that goal, we must first fix our broken permitting system, which delays the development and maintenance of roads, bridges, and other critical projects for years, leaving them in a state of disrepair.  The BUILDER Act would reduce delays in the NEPA process by eliminating outdated provisions and ensuring practical project review timelines – all while bringing jobs back to hardworking Americans and continuing to protect the environment.  I’m proud to support this commonsense legislation, and call on my Democratic colleagues to join Republicans in this effort to rebuild America’s infrastructure, jumpstart our economic recovery, and efficiently develop more sources of clean energy.” 

“Reducing bureaucratic red tape is crucial in our fight to get our nation moving again,” said Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA).  “President Trump ran on a platform of infrastructure renewal and Congressional Republicans are committed to seeing that revitalization through.  I am proud to cosponsor this vital legislation.  Now is the time to build, rebuild, and make American infrastructure great again.”

“I’m proud to support the BUILDER Act because it will streamline costly regulations that have prevented Wyoming communities from utilizing local resources to create good-paying jobs,” said House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY).  “For too long, vital improvements to our roads, bridges, railways, and waterways have stalled due to NEPA’s outdated guidelines.  This commonsense legislation will restore the voice of local stakeholders by reducing the serial litigation imposed by radical environmental groups.”

“NEPA has been sidelining infrastructure projects and hindering American energy independence almost since its inception,” said Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT).  “Earlier this year, President Trump rolled out a plan to reform NEPA, the first meaningful modernization to a deeply flawed process in 50 years.  This bill will codify in law these critical reforms and provide certainty to industry partners, ensuring consistency despite any administration change.  If House Democrats were serious about rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, developing renewable energy, and protecting our natural resources, they would take swift action on this important legislation.”

“Reducing delays in the approval process for infrastructure projects can have the same impact as a boost in investment,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO).  “Congressman Garret Graves’ bill is a smart and much needed reform that will help rebuild America, restore our economy, and get Americans back to work, all while continuing to effectively protect the environment.  I’m glad to see many of the reforms to the project review process from the STARTER Act incorporated into this bill, and I’m proud to cosponsor it.”

The Ranking Members of the following U.S. House committees have joined Graves in introducing the legislation.

  • Transportation and Infrastructure
  • Natural Resources
  • Judiciary
  • Science, Space and Technology
  • Energy and Commerce

The BUILDER Act includes provisions that will:

  • Ensure rigorous environmental scrutiny without undue delays or excessive costs.
  • Ensure practical project review timelines.
  • Clarify duties of Federal, State, Tribal and local governments when conducting an environmental review.
  • Establish and clarify the threshold determinations for when to prepare an environmental document under NEPA.
  • Emphasize early coordination with stakeholders and federal agencies.
  • Eliminate vague, outdated provisions to make compliance easier.
  • Permit a project sponsor to assist agencies in conducting environmental reviews to help speed up the process.
  • Require agencies to make use of reliable existing data sources and clarify that NEPA does not require undertaking new scientific and technical research to inform analyses.
  • Require potential litigants to have participated meaningfully in the NEPA process before filing suit and provide a reasonable timeline to file those lawsuits.

About NEPA:

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law on January 1, 1970. NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. The range of actions covered by NEPA is broad and includes:

  • making decisions on permit applications,
  • adopting federal land management actions, and
  • constructing highways and other publicly-owned facilities.

Using the NEPA process, agencies evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions. Agencies also provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations.