WASHINGTON (June 21, 2023) — The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council) is pleased to announce that President Biden has appointed Eric Beightel as its incoming Executive Director. Beightel brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the environmental review and approval process for major infrastructure projects in both the public and private sectors, most recently serving as an Associate Vice President and national lead for Infrastructure Policy and Environmental Strategy at HDR, Inc., a global engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services firm.
“I am extremely appreciative of this opportunity to return to federal service focused on the critical need to improve the efficiency and predictability of the federal permitting process,” says Eric Beightel, incoming Permitting Council Executive Director. “We’ve made great strides, and I aim to maintain that momentum, continuing to seek opportunities to improve our processes and deliver results for the American people.”
As Executive Director, Beightel will manage a portfolio of nearly $100 billion in large-scale infrastructure projects—including those in the renewable energy, coastal restoration, broadband, and electricity transmission sectors. Beightel will lead the 16-member Council as it works to make the Federal infrastructure permitting process better coordinated, more collaborative and transparent, and ultimately more accountable in pursuit of realizing the construction of once-in-a-generation infrastructure in support of Biden-Harris Administration goals.
Beightel succeeds outgoing Executive Director Christine Harada, who will continue her leadership and service to the Biden-Harris Administration at a new post to be announced in July. Under Harada’s leadership, the Permitting Council has expanded its work to enhance collaboration and transparency in federal permitting processes, including adding the first Tribal, broadband, and critical minerals projects to the FAST-41 program.
“It has been a great honor and privilege to serve as the Executive Director of the Permitting Council and one of the great challenges of my career to help it grow from its infancy to a keystone in President Biden’s agenda,” says Christine Harada, as she leaves the post of Executive Director of the Permitting Council. “The Council is now fully equipped to play a major role in the fulfillment of the Biden-Harris infrastructure plan, and I am excited to see the history-making progress that is in its future.”
"I would like to thank Christine Harada for all of her work advancing President Biden’s vision for a more resilient nation and a clean energy future," said White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. "I look forward to our continued partnership with the Permitting Council under Eric Beightel’s leadership. Together, we will continue to improve permitting efficiency and predictability while safeguarding our environment and public health."
A nationally recognized expert in the environmental and infrastructure fields, Beightel brings more than 20 years of experience to the Permitting Council, including significant time spent in federal service. Beightel’s extensive public and private sector experience honed his command of the National Environmental Policy Act and his capacity for solving complex environmental permitting problems on the local, state and national level. His experience includes serving as a senior environmental policy advisor at the Department of Transportation, developing and implementing strategies to reduce permitting and review timelines while delivering better outcomes for communities and the environment. He also worked as a policy advisor at the Office of Management and Budget, serving as a subject matter expert on the federal permitting and review process for major infrastructure projects. In addition to his work at HDR, Inc., Beightel also worked for WSP, USA as a senior director and vice president, working with clients to develop innovative strategies to navigate the federal environmental regulatory framework efficiently.
“I’m thrilled that Eric Beightel will be in charge of the administration’s crucial efforts to deliver important infrastructure projects for the American people while protecting the environment,” says Polly Trottenberg, Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation. “He is joining the administration at a pivotal time, and I look forward to partnering with him to deliver on the President’s agenda.”
A graduate of the University of Kansas (Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies) and George Mason University (Master of Public Policy), Eric Beightel begins his tenure at the Permitting Council on July 3, 2023. Learn more about the Permitting Council here.
About the Permitting 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 and predictability of the federal environmental review and authorization process for certain 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 the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
The Permitting Council coordinates federal environmental reviews and authorizations for projects that seek and qualify for FAST-41 coverage. FAST-41 covered projects are entitled to comprehensive permitting timetables and transparent, collaborative management of those timetables on the federal Permitting Dashboard. FAST-41 covered projects may be in the renewable or conventional energy production, electricity transmission, energy storage, surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resource, broadband, pipelines, manufacturing, mining, carbon capture, semiconductors, artificial intelligence and machine learning, high-performance computing and advanced computer hardware and software, quantum information science and technology, data storage and data management, and cybersecurity sectors.