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Hope Pollard is the president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed by Congress with the leadership and support of Sen. Susan Collins provides much-needed investments in building out and modernizing America’s core infrastructure. However, to realize the full economic and societal benefits of these investments for communities in Maine and throughout the United States, Congress must also address the burdensome, inefficient environmental review and federal permitting processes that add unnecessary time delays, costs, and risk for investors — all of which can prevent a given project from getting off the ground.
Importantly, the IIJA included language calling for a streamlined environmental review process, signaling that there is bipartisan support for permitting reform to advance a range of vital infrastructure projects. However, recent actions by the administration — including the unnecessarily costly and burdensome proposed revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) — stand in sharp contrast to the efforts by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to streamline federal permitting processes in order to accelerate infrastructure projects that will create jobs and strengthen local economies.
Unfortunately, by rescinding reforms to streamline the federal environmental review process — which can take years or even up to a decade to complete — the Biden administration’s NEPA rulemaking will delay the completion of critical infrastructure projects, increase costs for the construction industry as well as taxpayers, and fail to provide any truly meaningful environmental benefits.
What we need is to accelerate the approval of infrastructure projects, including those that will support energy security, without having these projects suffer from delays due to burdensome approval processes and legal challenges.
Maine’s construction industry is ready, willing, and able to build, repair, and modernize our critical infrastructure, but for that to happen, we need Congress to act to pass permitting reform. Our current, overly complicated permitting system is bogged down by government red tape at every level — local, state, and federal — often resulting in duplicative efforts and inefficiencies.
Not only does this delay the physical construction of long-awaited infrastructure projects, it also increases costs, reduces financial viability, and introduces new risks for private investors that can lead to funding drying up before a project is even shovel-ready. Federal permitting reform can help make the process more efficient, predictable, and coordinated for all parties involved, and increase transparency and accountability while enabling Maine’s construction industry to create jobs and move forward on infrastructure projects that will strengthen our communities.
Collins has long been a champion of Maine’s construction industry and, to her credit, she has been supportive of streamlining the federal permitting processes, although efforts at the end of last year failed to move forward. Looking ahead, the construction industry remains hopeful that Collins will support this critical industry by pushing for permitting reform in the 118th Congress.