New FAST Act Implementation Report Describes Permit Streamlining Accomplishments

April 20, 2017

On April 14, the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC or Council) released its FAST-41 FY 2016 Annual Report to Congress. The report describes the FPISC’s accomplishments since its creation under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (FAST Act), Pub. L. No. 114-94, which was signed into law in December 2015. (See a prior article on the FAST Act here.)   

The accomplishments outlined in the report include: 

  • Federal agencies appointed councilmembers to serve on the FPISC
  • The FPISC Executive established an initial inventory of covered projects that were undergoing the federal environmental review and authorization process as of September 2016
  • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published FAST-41 implementation guidance
  • The FPISC published Recommended Best Practices and Recommended Performance Schedules reports (available as attachments to the Annual Report)
  • The FPISC participated in multiple Tribal consultations conducted by the US Department of Justice, US Army, and US Department of the Interior to identify additional opportunities to improve the infrastructure permitting process.

For an infrastructure project to become a “covered project” under the FAST Act, the project sponsor must submit an initiation notice for inclusion. 42 U.S.C. § 4370m-2(a). In general, projects eligible for inclusion must be infrastructure construction projects that are either (1) subject to review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), likely to cost more than $200 million to construct, and ineligible for abbreviated Federal review processes, or (2) subject to NEPA and, in the judgment of the Council, of a certain size and complexity that would benefit from enhanced oversight and coordination. § 4370m(6).

The FAST Act was designed to improve the NEPA review process for major infrastructure, energy, and manufacturing projects in order to counteract the slow pace and high costs that have plagued NEPA reviews. However, there are significant obstacles to streamlining that continue to impair the effectiveness of these reforms, including agency reluctance expedite processes for controversial projects. Project applicants need to be proactive to ensure that federal agencies utilize these tools effectively.

If you have any questions, or if you’d like more information about the FAST Act or infrastructure permitting and review processes, please contact Cynthia Taub at +1 202 429 8133 or Sarah Nural at +1 202 429 8103.