Improving Environmental Outcomes from Infrastructure by Addressing Permitting Delays

Author: Philip Rossetti


With the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress together pursuing major infrastructure investments, there is an important question as to how best maximize potential economic and environmental benefits of new infrastructure. Reforming the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is one of the most straightforward and impactful ways to do so. Currently, many major infrastructure projects are delayed due to significant, NEPA-mandated requirements for environmental-impact review. Such delays are frequently exacerbated by vague statutory requirements and exceptional litigation risks. Updated guidance for environmental reviews under NEPA, coupled with strategic judiciary reforms, could expedite infrastructure approval while improving environmental outcomes.

Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration should strive to clarify environmental regulatory requirements and standing for litigation under NEPA. Specific recommended actions include (i) establishing well-defined and transparent processes for public input on governmental environmental-impact statements, (ii) shortening the statute of limitations for litigation under NEPA from two years to 60–120 days, and (iii) requiring that plaintiffs against governmental records of decision must have previously submitted public input on relevant environmental-impact statements.

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About the Author

Philip Rossetti is a Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment at the free-market-oriented R Street Institute. Before joining R Street, Philip supported the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis in the U.S. House of Representatives. Philip also previously served as the Director of Energy Policy at the American Action Forum, an economic-focused think tank. Philip focuses on identifying low-cost opportunities for achieving environmental benefits. His work has been featured in outlets including The Washington Post, Axios, Politico, and The Hill.