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New York Times: Trump Wants More Big Infrastructure Projects. The Obstacles Can Be Big, Too.

November 18, 2017


By Barry Meier


President Trump says he is frustrated with the slow pace of major construction projects like highways, ports and pipelines. Last summer, he pledged to use the power of the presidency to jump start building when it became bogged down in administrative delays.


“No longer will we allow the infrastructure of our magnificent country to crumble and decay,” Mr. Trump said in August.


In an executive order, the president directed federal agencies to coordinate environmental impact reviews for major projects with the goal of completing them within two years. Such reviews can often take four years and, in some cases, even longer.


Other presidents, including Barack Obama, have tried with mixed success to streamline the approvals for big infrastructure projects by pushing federal agencies to do environmental reviews faster. Frequently, delays are caused because multiple agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, weigh in on the scope of an environmental review or have to issue separate permits before work can begin.


The centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s plan gives an office, the Council on Environmental Quality, within the White House, the authority to coordinate actions and direct how environmental reviews are performed. Much of the plan’s inspiration lies in a report, “Two Years Not Ten Years,” issued in 2015 by Common Good, a nonpartisan research and advocacy group.


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