July 27, 2021
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Republican members of the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure issued a bill on April 14 that seeks to make infrastructure project reviews more efficient and reduce project costs while spurring economic recovery for the nation.

[Above photo by the Architect of the Capitol.]

They maintain the focus of Building U.S. Infrastructure through Limited Delays and Efficient Reviews or BUILDER Act is to “shrink the bureaucratic footprint” that inhibits many infrastructure projects from moving forward “in a timely and cost-effective manner.”

Key provisions of the bill include:

  • Ensuring rigorous environmental scrutiny for proposed actions without delays or excessive costs.
  • Ensuring practical project review timelines.
  • Clarifying duties of federal, state, tribal and local governments when conducting an environmental review and ensuring project applicants and the public are informed.
  • Establishing and clarifying the threshold determinations for preparing an environmental document under the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA.
  • Emphasizing early coordination with stakeholders and federal agencies.
  • Eliminating vague, outdated provisions to make compliance easier.
  • Permitting a project sponsor to assist agencies in conducting environmental reviews to help speed up the process and to resolve issues.
  • Requiring agencies to make use of reliable existing data sources.
  • Requiring litigants to have participated meaningfully in the NEPA process before filing suit and provide a reasonable timeline to file those lawsuits.
  • Ensuring that, when determining whether the effects of a federal action are significant, agencies will only consider reasonably foreseeable effects with a reasonably close causal relationship to the proposed action.

“The National Environment Policy Act was enacted in 1970 to ensure the productive coexistence between the environment and the American people, but … it has become an unproductive obstacle that is failing the very people and resources it is supposed to be serving,” explained Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., the lead author of the BUILDER Act, in a statement.

“NEPA review is project purgatory, taking orders of magnitude longer to study projects than the time needed to complete them,” he added.

“Our bill fixes this broken approach – while protecting the environment – and updates NEPA so it can fulfill its purpose and deliver to taxpayers the infrastructure enhancements, coastal wetlands restoration, flood protection and other improvements it currently impairs,” he said.

“By approving needed infrastructure projects more efficiently, we can make our limited resources go much further while maintaining strong environmental protections,” added Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., the ranking member on the House T&I committee.

“I commend Congressman Garret Graves for his leadership in this effort, and I look forward to working on bipartisan measures to rebuild our infrastructure with smart, achievable policies,” Rep. Graves said.

editor@aashto.org

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