Senators unveil plan to cut red tape for major projects

He noted that the United States ranks 17th in the world in terms of greenlighting major projects and said eased regulations would benefit oil and gas, manufacturing, transportation and broadband sectors, among others.

Under current regulations, for instance, a single energy project can require upwards of 35 separate permits, Portman said. As a result of delays caused by the cumbersome process, more than 1 million jobs fail to materialize each year, while would-be investors are hesitant to help finance projects, the lawmakers said.

McCaskill said the bill would create a system to end confusion over who is accountable for approving proposed projects.

The bill would establish a Federal Permitting Improvement Council, headed by a Senate-confirmed Office of Management and Budget official selected by the president.

The council would create an inventory of pending projects requiring an initial investment of at least $25 million and designate a lead authorizing agency for each. The bill would impose new deadlines for approval decisions.

An online “dashboard” available to the public would allow interested parties to monitor the status of a project going through the permitting process, the lawmakers said.

The legislation also contains provisions meant to reduce project delays linked to lawsuits. It would reduce the statute of limitations for suits filed under the National Environmental Policy Act from six years to 150 days, and allow courts to consider potential job losses in decisions about whether to halt a project.

Representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and America’s Building Trades Unions, AFL-CIO, have backed the bill.

Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) have signed on as co-sponsors.

"What we have to do is put people to work and build things," Donnelly said.

McCaskill predicted more senators would get behind the measure and said she expected Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to be “cooperative.”

“If we could get it to the floor, I believe we have bipartisan support," Portman said.