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Congress Expands Power of Agency That Reformed Infrastructure Permitting

With the infrastructure bill passed, the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council is here to stay. 

WASHINGTON - November 8, 2021 - Congress approved the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) on November 5, a historic $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in American infrastructure and global competitiveness. Among other things, the IIJA makes important Federal infrastructure review and permitting process reforms permanent by re-authorizing the Federal agency responsible for implementing them, the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council).   

“I’m very excited for the opportunity to facilitate building out our nation’s infrastructure, and the trust placed in us by Congress to make it so,” said Executive Director Christine Harada.

The legislation also makes the Permitting Council the newest permanent addition to the more than 400 departments, agencies, and sub-agencies in the Federal government. This reaffirms ongoing Congressional commitment to a transparent, predictable, and inclusive Federal environmental review and authorization process for critical infrastructure projects that maximize investment in infrastructure and promotes positive economic, social, and community outcomes.

“I’m pleased the bipartisan infrastructure bill has passed Congress and is heading to the President’s desk for signature since it contains key Federal permitting reforms including expanding and making permanent my bipartisan FAST-41 law that created the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council,” said Senator Rob Portman. “I am proud of the Permitting Council’s good work to date to improve the Federal permitting process without reducing environmental or safety protections and look forward to seeing it continue.”

Additionally, the IIJA improves access to the benefits of Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST-41) for Tribal-sponsored projects on Tribal-managed lands and gives the Permitting Council Executive Director authority to transfer funds directly to state and Tribal governments involved with significant infrastructure projects. 

About the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council

Established in 2015 by Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST-41), the Permitting Council is a unique Federal agency charged with improving the transparency, predictability, and outcomes of the Federal environmental review and authorization process for certain large-scale critical infrastructure projects. The Permitting Council is comprised of the Permitting Council Executive Director, who serves as the Council Chair; 13 Federal agency Council members (including deputy secretary-level designees of the Secretaries of Agriculture, Army, Commerce, Interior, Energy, Transportation, Defense, Homeland Security, and Housing and Urban Development, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairs of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation); and additional council members, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The Permitting Council coordinates over 60 Federal environmental reviews and authorizations for infrastructure projects in the conventional energy production, renewable energy production, electricity transmission, surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resource, broadband, pipelines, manufacturing, mining, and carbon capture sectors. 

The Permitting Council facilitates a more coordinated Federal agency review and decision-making process for certain large, complex infrastructure projects. The process seeks to maximize the positive environmental and community outcomes of those projects through:

  • Public and Tribal outreach strategies
  • Meaningful project sponsor engagement
  • Identifying and implementing best practices
  • Dispute resolution services
  • Transparent permitting project schedules on the Federal Permitting Dashboard

About FAST-41

Participation in FAST-41 is voluntary, and sponsors of projects that qualify under specific statutory criteria apply to obtain FAST-41 program benefits. FAST-41 helps ensure a deliberate, transparent, and predictable Federal environmental review and permitting process for certain large, complex infrastructure projects. FAST-41 does not alter any applicable statutory or regulatory requirement, environmental law, regulation, or review process, or public involvement procedure. FAST-41 does not predetermine the outcome of any Federal decision-making process with respect to any infrastructure project receiving FAST-41 benefits.

The current FAST-41 project portfolio consists primarily of renewable energy, coastal restoration, and electricity transmission projects. A majority of the FAST-41 projects are offshore wind farms, which represent over half of the Biden Administration’s goal to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030. The current FAST-41 project portfolio represents nearly $100 billion in economic investment and more than 50,000 jobs. 



Last updated: Monday, November 8, 2021