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Historic Infrastructure Investments to Benefit Native Americans in Three Critical Ways

The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, responsible for improving environmental review and permitting process, aims to ensure infrastructure investments benefit communities across Indian Country

WASHINGTON, D.C. November 16, 2021 — The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council), charged with improving the Federal infrastructure environmental review and permitting process, announced it will expand its efforts to consider the important voices and culture of America’s first inhabitants as the historic infrastructure investment package becomes law during Native American Heritage Month. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the Permitting Council will lead the implementation of important new policies to expand Tribal involvement in Federal infrastructure review and permitting in three critical ways.

The Pitka’s Point/Saint Mary’s Wind Energy Construction Project in St. Mary’s and Pitka’s Point, Alaska, serves the Alaska Native communities of Pitka’s Point and Saint Mary’s, Alaska. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Native American territories make up approximately 5.8 percent of land in the U.S. and represent an estimated 7.8 percent of total U.S. wind energy generation potential. Image courtesy of the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, Inc./Pitka’s Point Native Corporation Renewable Energy Joint Venture.

“I am thrilled that the IIJA reinforces our responsibility as a nation to honor the Federal Indian trust responsibility and the Biden administration’s commitment to equity and environmental justice as we build back better, particularly as it relates to Tribal nations,” said Executive Director Christine Harada.

The Permitting Council administers Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST-41) and establishes best practices for infrastructure permitting across the Federal government. Under the IIJA, the Permitting Council will help ensure that infrastructure investments benefit communities across Indian Country in the following ways:

  • Infrastructure projects sponsored by Tribal entities and located on Tribal lands will have increased access to the benefits of FAST-41, which include public, transparent permitting timetables and increased access to Federal decision-makers with respect to their projects.
  • The Permitting Council Executive Director will be authorized to transfer funds directly to Tribes to participate in the Federal review and authorization of infrastructure projects affecting the Tribe, easing the financial burden of participating in project review. 
  • The IIJA charges the 13 Permitting Council member agencies to develop new, governmentwide best practices to improve agencies’ and project sponsor early engagement with Tribal governments to identify potential impacts to natural, archeological, and cultural resources from Federally-authorized infrastructure projects.  

Large, complex infrastructure projects can impact the land and cultural resources of any of the 574 Federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes and villages in the U.S. As a result, the IIJA prioritizes input from Tribal nations affected by proposed infrastructure projects and advances opportunities for Tribal involvement in infrastructure developed on Tribal lands.

The Permitting Council has successfully implemented recommendations from the 2019 U.S. Government Accountability Office report to help Federal agencies ensure that their policies better communicate how they consider Tribal input in decision-making for proposed infrastructure projects. And it continues to build on its 2021 Best Practices Report for high-quality nation-to-nation engagement on infrastructure projects through its Tribal initiative. The initiative includes providing governmentwide training for more effective nation-to-nation engagement, hosting nation-to-nation consultations with White House and Permitting Council officials, and facilitating the governmentwide expansion of the Tribal Directory Assistance Tool.

In addition, the Biden administration is committed to regular and meaningful consultation with Tribal leaders in formulating Federal policy that affects Tribal Nations.


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 all 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 that meet certain criteria. The FAST-41 process seeks to maximize predictability and positive environmental and community outcomes through:

  • Coordinated agency action in developing and implementing comprehensive permitting timetables
  • Coordinated establishment of public and Tribal outreach strategies
  • Meaningful project sponsor engagement
  • Identification and implementation of best practices
  • Dispute resolution services
  • Posting and maintaining transparent, publicly-accessible permitting timetables on the Federal Permitting Dashboard

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

The current project portfolio consists primarily of renewable energy, coastal restoration, and electricity transmission projects. A majority of the 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 project portfolio represents nearly $100 billion in economic investment and more than 50,000 jobs.

Media Contact
Diedre Von
Director of Communications and Public Affairs
Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council

Last updated: Tuesday, November 16, 2021