Infrastructure Permit Streamlining Under FAST Act
Last December, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), the first multi-year federal transportation bill enacted in a decade. Almost unnoticed among nearly five hundred pages of transportation law were twenty-one pages of new, highly detailed procedural rules for federal permitting of most major infrastructure and other capital projects, and authorization for a large administrative apparatus within the Executive Office of the President. The new rules and administrative structure should, if funded and implemented, prove to be a welcome boost to ongoing efforts by the current Administration to improve the federal permitting and siting process. This article describes the new law and its implementation challenges, and offers thoughts on the FAST Act’s potential value to infrastructure developers.
The authors of this paper have been involved with many federal infrastructure and other permitting processes that were defined by interagency discord, ever-receding schedules, uncontrolled agency costs, and unwelcome surprises. But we also served as regulatory counsel to the first interstate electric transmission project that received expedited review under the earliest manifestation of the Obama Administration’s infrastructure permit streamlining initiative. The process applied to that multi-billion dollar transmission project benefited greatly from a well-enforced decision-making schedule at the Interior Department and authoritative oversight of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Despite tough siting and permitting issues and determined opposition, the project was approved and built and put into service within a timeframe that was far faster than the schedule experienced by every other major interstate transmission project in the federal approval process at that time.
For the full article, please see here.
 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, Pub. L. No. 114-94, 129 Stat. 1312 (2015) [hereinafter Fast Act].