Beveridge & Diamond

White House Announcement Builds Momentum for Comprehensive Infrastructure NEPA and Permit Reform

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., May 15, 2014

With construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement looming over his shoulder, President Obama announced yesterday an even greater commitment to reform the federal process for reviewing and permitting major infrastructure projects across the country.

This latest plan builds on previous Presidential Memoranda and an existing Executive Order seeking to add greater accountability and transparency to promote efficient project permitting.  (Click here for White House Fact Sheet.)  The proposal identifies four successful strategies that have already shown results in the transportation sector.  (Click here for the Implementation Plan.)  These strategies are:

  • Institutionalizing inter-agency coordination - concurrent reviews and decision-making between multiple agencies with jurisdiction over a project replaces sequential and indefinite proceedings (e.g., the Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) as lead agency for a bridge project that also requires a Clean Water Act permit from the Corps of Engineers and a bridge permit from the Coast Guard).  It also mandates an efficient dispute resolution process when substantive disagreements arise.
  • Improving project planning and application quality – agencies across the government have access to information about sensitive environmental and/or human resources.  The plan requires agencies to share good mapping and other IT data to help identify such resources early in the planning process.
  • Improving permit reviews and mitigation – this strategy encourages the use of programmatic agreements to identify landscape-scale mitigation that can provide project proponents greater certainty about what types of measures will be approved and will lead to better environmental outcomes.
  • Increase transparency – the White House continues to stress the “dashboard” approach to project permitting.  Showing the public where an approval process stands and how long it is taking incentivizes agencies to get things right.

As a new vehicle to foster all of these objectives, the Administration will pursue the creation of an “Infrastructure Permitting Improvement Center” to be housed at the Department of Transportation.  This Center was highlighted in the FY2015 budget proposal and in the “Grow America” draft surface transportation legislation, but may not require legislative action to become a reality. 

While serving as FHWA Chief Counsel, Beveridge & Diamond Principal Fred Wagner had a direct hand in all of these strategies.  He worked on many of the highlighted successes of expedited project delivery discussed by the President and served on a precursor group to the proposed permitting center, the “Transportation Rapid Response Team,” chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

“There is no doubt that these measures work,” commented Mr. Wagner.  “I have seen it first-hand.  The only challenge now is to incorporate the reforms that have led to positive results for transportation projects to other crucial sectors of our economy, such as energy exploration, alternative energy, transmission lines, and water delivery.”

Beveridge & Diamond has extensive experience in developing and implementing these creative strategies to advance needed infrastructure projects across the country.  For further information on the Administration’s Implementation Plan for project review and permitting, please contact Fred Wagner at 202-789-6041,, Peter Schaumberg at 202-789-6043,, Brian Levey at 781-416-5733,, Parker Moore at 202-789-6028,, or Jamie Auslander at 202-789-6009,

Click here for a PDF of this news alert.




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