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Infrastructure, Energy Progress Hinge on Cutting Red Tape

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted May 27, 2015

It’s Amazing That Anything Ever Gets Built

Wall Street Journal commentary (Engler and McGarvey): America’s business and labor leaders agree: President Obama and Congress can do more to modernize the permitting process for infrastructure projects—airports, factories, power plants and pipelines—which at the moment is burdensome, slow and inconsistent.

Gaining approval to build a new bridge or factory typically involves review by multiple federal agencies—such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the Interior Department, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Land Management—with overlapping jurisdictions and no real deadlines. Often, no single federal entity is responsible for managing the process. Even after a project is granted permits, lawsuits can hold things up for years—or, worse, halt a half-completed construction project.

Consider the $3 billion TransWest Express, a multistate power-line that would bring upward of 3,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity from Wyoming to about 1.8 million homes and businesses from Las Vegas to San Diego. The project delivers on two of President Obama’s priorities, renewable power and job creation, so the administration in October 2011 named the TransWest Express one of seven transmission projects to “quickly advance” through federal permitting.

Yet it has languished under federal review since 2007. Late last month the Bureau of Land Management announced it had finished a voluminous environmental impact statement, but construction is not expected to begin for almost another year due to problems obtaining permits from the EPA, the Federal Highway Administration, the Army Corps, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation. Meanwhile, thousands of skilled craft construction workers sit on their hands.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.