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White House releases plan aimed at improving infrastructure permitting processes

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The White House on Wednesday released a plan that it says will improve the permitting process for infrastructure projects. 

The plan, released by White House officials, seeks to balance speeding up the process while maintaining rigorous environmental reviews. 

The plan includes using cross-agency coordination early in the permitting process, setting “clear” timeline goals and engaging in early and meaningful stakeholder outreach.

It will also involve more technical assistance and support, as well as making use of agency resources like their staff and technology. 

“We’re going to get more projects built on time and in the right way,” Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory told reporters on Tuesday.

Mallory noted that the administration is not looking for “cutting corners [or] incomplete or shoddy reviews,” but rather that they want to be “rewiring” permitting to be “more nimble, more transparent and more proactive.”

But the idea of speeding up the process was met with some progressive pushback.

“It’s infuriating to see the Biden administration whittle away one of our most important environmental laws,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. 

“You can’t advance environmental justice and protect tribal nations and frontline communities if you keep accepting dangerous Republican talking points intended to appease the fossil fuel industry,” Hartl said. 

The plan comes as the White House seeks to tout wins, particularly on infrastructure, as the future of its spending agenda remains unclear in Congress. 

While Democrats seek to push Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their spending legislation, the swing-vote senator has pushed for bipartisan climate talks.

In these talks, Republicans have likewise pushed reforms that could include changes to an environmental law called the National Environmental Policy Act that mandates environmental reviews. 

The GOP and various industries have complained that the law’s requirements slow down projects, but many Democrats say they are necessary to protect people and nature from potential harm.

The Biden administration has taken a two-phase approach to restore many of the protections from implementing this law that were weakened under the Trump administration. It recently finalized its first phase.

Updated at 1:56 p.m.

Tags Biden Brenda Mallory Brett Hartl

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