On May 14, 2014, the Interagency Infrastructure Steering Committee released its plan to address permitting for large-scale infrastructure, specifically electric and natural gas projects.  The Plan (titled “Implementation Plan for the Presidential Memorandum on Modernizing Infrastructure Permitting”) is designed to reduce the time needed to permit major projects by: (1) streamlining the permitting process at all levels of government; (2) reducing uncertainty in the application process; and (3) enabling hiring of more Federal agency staff.  The Plan is a result of the 2013 Presidential Memorandum directing the Steering Committee to develop an implementation plan for permitting reforms.

The Plan is designed to reduce the period for reviewing and issuing a permitting decision by half.  The Plan identifies four broad strategies to achieve these goals: (1) institutionalize interagency coordination and transparency by formalizing such coordination; (2) improve project planning, siting, and application quality by developing tools to assist the applicant in planning and to assist agency staff in timely decision-making; (3) improve permitting reviews and mitigation by providing staff guidance and developing policies to mitigate project impacts on the landscape; and (4) drive continued improvements through a new group that will help implement permitting reforms across all agencies.

In addition to these broad strategies, the Plan identifies 15 specific reforms to improve the permitting process.  These include the following: early identification of a lead agency and creation of a single project plan across all agencies; requiring synchronized, simultaneous reviews by agencies; maintaining accountability and transparency throughout the permitting process; and strengthening dispute resolution mechanisms to allow for the expedited resolution of conflicts.

To support these reforms, the Plan includes creation of an Interagency Infrastructure Permitting Improvement Center (“IIPIC”).  The IIPIC will provide a government-wide perspective on the permitting reform, and report to the Steering Committee.  Additionally, the Plan recommends the creation of a permanent dashboard to track the schedules of major permitting projects.

To implement these strategies and reforms, the Plan calls for a two-phase implementation process with tentative milestones for each phase.  The first phase, “Initial Implementation”, will run from May 2014 through mid-2015.  This phase will institute priority reforms and test studies.  In mid-2015 the second phase will build on the results of Initial Implementation reforms and studies.

A copy of the Plan is available here.