As part of President Obama's initiative to make America a magnet for jobs by building a 21st Century infrastructure, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today signed a Declaration of Cooperation with the States of Oregon and Washington to expedite the review and permitting of energy generation, power transmission and other vital infrastructure development in the Pacific Northwest.
"By cutting red tape, expanding information technology tools and conducting concurrent state and federal reviews, we can trim months, if not years, off the time it takes to review and approve projects," said Secretary Jewell. "We will continue to ensure that vital infrastructure is designed, built and maintained in a way that protects public health, safety and the environment, while creating jobs and expediting economic growth."
The agreement signed today formally establishes a pilot Pacific Northwest Regional Infrastructure Team to more efficiently coordinate the permitting processes for infrastructure projects -- where both state and federal agencies have review responsibilities. This state-federal team will use a cross-agency and cross-jurisdictional strategy to identify siting conflicts and mitigation early in the development and permitting process.
The infrastructure team will focus on a variety of projects, including renewable energy generation, electricity transmission, broadband, pipelines, ports and waterways, and water resource development that are proposed in the states. The team will also be a forum for innovation in early identification of effective mitigation integrated across agencies as an important element of a successful integrated permitting strategy.
The formation of the pilot Pacific Northwest Regional Infrastructure Team builds on a successful partnership model with California, where the Interior Department and the state identified joint policy priorities for renewable energy, established a joint forum to resolve permitting and siting conflicts, and achieved significant project development, while protecting critical wildlife and cultural resources.
The pilot Pacific Northwest Regional Infrastructure Team is an important component of the Administration's larger effort to grow the economy, accelerate job creation and improve U.S. competitiveness by building a 21st Century infrastructure. In March 2012, the President issued an Executive Order launching the government-wide initiative to improve the efficiency of federal review and permitting of infrastructure projects. Since then, agencies have expedited the review and permitting of 50 major projects, including bridges, transit projects, railways, waterways, roads and renewable energy.
Pacific Northwest States have already taken a number of steps to spur infrastructure investment and expedite their permitting processes. In Oregon, Governor John Kitzhaber's December 2011 Executive Order 11-12 established the Oregon Solutions Network to promote collaborative governance by using a cross-sector approach to respond to challenges and opportunities that lead to statewide and regional solutions. In November 2012, Governor Kitzhaber issued Executive Order 12-17, which called upon state agencies to look at the full life-cycle costs of infrastructure and state capital facilities investments, including climate risk. The Governor also released a 10-Year Energy Action Plan that outlines strategies to meet energy efficiency, renewable energy, greenhouse gas reduction, and transportation objectives, with goals to enhance clean energy infrastructure development by removing finance and regulatory barriers to attract new investment and pursue promising new technologies in 2012.
"With today's announcement federal and state agencies will work more collaboratively, reducing the time required to make significant permitting decisions while also improving environmental and community outcomes," said Governor Kitzhaber. "This agreement embodies the kind of change necessary to accelerate our economic recovery, and restore the shared prosperity of our states."
In Washington, Governor Jay Inslee is working to modernize state regulatory systems to create and sustain a thriving economic climate that spurs job growth. State agencies in Washington are examining how they can remove barriers and support economic development efforts, including the reform of regulatory and permitting processes. Historically, affordable electricity has helped industries across the State and Governor Inslee's plan is to ensure the State remains at the forefront of clean energy innovation and development. State agencies are also addressing infrastructure improvements to provide long-term economic growth because businesses need to move products efficiently and reliably across highways, railways and ports.
"The Pacific Northwest Regional Infrastructure Team represents an exciting opportunity for our state to engage with federal and regional partners to streamline and expedite regulatory processes," said Governor Inslee. "With this new initiative we can accelerate development of important energy and infrastructure projects that will create jobs and economic growth in our region. I'd like to commend President Obama and Secretary Jewell for their vision of collaboration on infrastructure development, in the Pacific Northwest and around the country."
As part of President Obama's efforts, federal agencies identified a set of best practices for efficient review and permitting, which range from expanding information technology tools to strategies for improving collaboration across state and federal agencies, such as having multiple agencies review a project at the same time, instead of one after the other. On May 17, 2013, a President Memorandum directed relevant federal agencies to put these best practices into effect. A permitting initiative was established to serve as a mechanism to cut timelines in half for major infrastructure projects while creating incentives for better outcomes for communities and the environment.
Major agencies undertaking these actions include the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Transportation, Energy, Army, Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
More information is in the Report to the President. Results of existing projects can be tracked on the Administration's Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard, a tool that provides an unprecedented level of transparency into the federal permitting and review process.