Hundreds of business groups step up campaign to ease permitting for projects

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Construction work on a new highway. (iStock)

Hundreds of business groups step up campaign to ease permitting for projects

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Hundreds of groups representing nearly every sector of the United States economy signed a letter calling on Congress to pass permitting reform quickly to jump-start infrastructure growth.

The letter was released on Monday morning and coincided with the launch of the “Permit America to Build” campaign, which is being spearheaded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There have long been complaints about how long it takes to get permitting approval, and the nearly 350 groups signed on are urging congressional action before the end of the summer.

The group contends the current federal permitting process, with federal permits taking years on average to be approved, needs to be streamlined. Especially in light of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure spending bill, which was signed into law in late 2021.

The signatories said that the “single biggest obstacle” to building infrastructure down the road is the current “broken” permitting system.

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The group emphasized the importance of investments in highways, bridges, transit systems, building new energy infrastructure, expanding broadband access, and rebuilding failing water systems.

“But America cannot accomplish any of this if the outdated, inefficient, and unpredictable permitting process is not improved,” the letter reads.

The group lists predictability, efficiency, transparency, and stakeholder input as what should be the guiding principles in the permitting reform process.

“Our permitting system is fundamentally broken, and it is delaying the investments that we desperately need in energy, transportation, broadband, technology, and countless other sectors,” said Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the chamber. “It should never take longer to get a permit than it does to build a project, and it is long past time for Congress to act.”

The coalition launched the campaign as the House considers new energy legislation dubbed by Republican leadership as the Lower Energy Costs Act. The legislation would overhaul the permitting process to strengthen domestic energy production and protect U.S. energy exports.

“With the introduction of the Lower Energy Costs Act, we will put a stop to the war on American energy, become energy independent again, and lower costs for families who are struggling,” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA).

The chamber has endorsed the GOP energy legislation, which was introduced earlier this month.

Still, the GOP legislation is opposed by many Democrats because it would pave the way for greater production of fossil fuels. Any legislation on permitting is likely to be the result of negotiations between House Republicans and centrist Democrats, particularly Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Manchin saw his own permitting reform bill get shot down last Congress and faces pressure from liberals who want to expedite green infrastructure but cut off oil and gas.

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The coalition behind the letter, which includes groups such as the Progressive Policy Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, American Conservation Coalition, the National Association of Realtors, and dozens of state-level organizations, hopes that the congressional effort to reform permitting will be bipartisan and comprehensive.

“We are pleased to see support for modernizing our permitting process from across the ideological spectrum, and a recognition that the current system is broken,” the letter reads. “Our organizations will not agree on every issue. We are committed, however, to working with Congress to find solutions and pass meaningful and durable legislation.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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