- Many federal agencies have made moves to streamline their permitting processes, but doubt still remains as to whether President Donald Trump can get the cooperation he needs from Congress to shrink the maximum infrastructure project permitting time to one to two years, according to Bloomberg BNA.
- The president called for fast-tracking of infrastructure permits in his State of the Union speech last month. Some lawmakers previously introduced legislation that would speed up federal approvals for some water and energy projects, which has inspired a move toward agency coordination that should result in more permitting provisions in future spending bills.
- Given that changes are in the works at federal agencies and that Congress already has shortened the permitting time for some categories of highway projects, lawmakers are unlikely to alter major environmental laws, like the Clean Water Act, that could delay the regulatory approval process, Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Bloomberg BNA.
The president already has taken a swing at the regulatory approval process by waiving environmental and other regulations to fast-track construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Late last year, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on behalf of the state and the California Coastal Commission claiming that the Trump administration based its decision to exempt itself from having to comply with standard California environmental laws during construction of border wall prototypes near San Diego on expired immigration laws.
The administration could also face additional legal challenges in South Texas where environmentalists are rallying against the government's plans to build a three-mile piece of the border wall through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to hundreds of bird species and is a conservation area for other wildlife, as well as an internationally recognized spot for bird-watching.
Meanwhile, the DHS could face lawsuits from activists after it declared itself exempt from major environmental and historic preservation laws so that it could expedite construction of a 20-mile portion of the border wall in New Mexico. The department said it needed to take this action because the project is near a border crossing that sees a great deal of illegal immigrant traffic, as well as alleged illegal activity, so it's imperative that work not be delayed.