There are a number of infrastructure projects that could help create jobs for Mainers, spur American innovation, strengthen U.S. energy security, and boost economic success for our state and our entire country. However, an overly complex and inefficient permitting process stands in the way of new projects getting off the ground and undermines the value of taxpayer investments in building out modern, 21st century infrastructure.
For her efforts, Sen. Susan Collins should be recognized for working hard at the end of last Congress to reform and streamline America’s permitting process to make way for infrastructure projects being implemented through the infrastructure law of 2021. While permitting reform legislation ultimately failed to make it across the finish line last year, there seems to be an appetite to revisit this issue in the new Congress that will ultimately reduce unnecessary regulatory delays.
As a state that is largely benefiting from incoming investments for improving our transportation, environmental and coastal resiliency, and energy efficiency that would improve the quality of life and economic outlook in communities throughout Maine, Collins should be supported in continuing her work in Congress to make permitting reform a priority this year.
Regardless of how many economic and societal benefits these investments may offer, none of them can be realized until projects are approved to move forward and the infrastructure in question is actually built. Sadly, the permitting process necessary to even begin such endeavors has become overly bureaucratic, burdensome, and riddled with inefficiencies.
Since infrastructure projects are subject to a range of permitting regimes—depending on the type of infrastructure and its geographic location—it can result in the same project requiring reviews and oversight by federal, state, and local agencies. This can create bottlenecks and delays that slow innovation, discourage private investment, and hinder the development of emerging technologies.
Importantly, permitting reform and streamlining access to federal agencies does not mean we need to lower environmental standards. The right reforms should simply increase transparency and accountability while reducing the duplication of efforts by various agencies and reducing the bureaucratic red tape that can prevent much-needed investments from taking shape.
Environmental reviews for new clean infrastructure projects can take many years (if not more than a decade) to complete. All that does is increase costs, decrease overall investment, and delay both the economic and environmental benefits that these projects offer our communities. Republican leaders like Collins have long called for simplifying these review processes in order to expedite such vital projects—and they should continue to do so.
The only way to realize the full economic benefits of the infrastructure law Collins helped craft and pass is for Congress to now focus on streamlining and simplifying the federal permitting process. Now that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is in the process of being implemented, Congress must simultaneously prioritize permitting reform to ensure these investments in our infrastructure can be implemented without any further delay.
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