The Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill contains several provisions designed to streamline the nation’s environmental permitting processes. One provision of the bill would permanently reauthorize part of the 2015, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which expedites permitting for infrastructure projects including mines, energy generation and physical infrastructure. Other provisions of the bill eliminate the requirement for federal agencies to conduct environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act for activities such as applying pesticides and timber cuts on parcels of land up to 3,000 acres. The bill would also reestablish and codify a 2017 executive order by President Donald Trump which shortens environmental reviews by consolidating the decision making process across agencies and putting new deadlines in place.
Critics of the bill argue that the streamlined provisions will decrease the public’s ability to participate in the permitting process, and make it more difficult to hold the government accountable when they ignore impacts on communities most affected by permitting decisions. Industry groups, on the other hand, have long argued that environmental permitting takes years and is needlessly complicated, which in turn can prevent badly needed infrastructure from reaching the intended communities.