The White House today announced its plans for a cross-agency effort to speed the permitting process for items in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, including broadband deployment.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – sometimes colloquially known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – contains $65 billion in broadband funding, and the new permitting action plan released by the administration is expected to help make sure projects are permitted quickly.
“The Action Plan is the latest example of the Administration taking action to swiftly deliver the benefits of infrastructure investment to the American people through well-designed projects that support the President’s ambitious climate and clean energy goals,” a White House fact sheet says.
“Putting the Action Plan into place will result in better permitting outcomes, enhanced predictability for project sponsors, and increased accountability across Federal agencies to execute efficiently and effectively,” the fact sheet continues.
To execute the plan, the administration is banking on the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council driving collaboration between the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and the deputy secretaries of the 13 agencies responsible for permitting actions.
The permitting plan is also designed to allow for more effective tracking of infrastructure to keep projects on time, on task, and on budget. The plan focuses on five elements:
- “Accelerating smart permitting through early cross-agency coordination”;
- “Establishing clear timeline goals and tracking key project information”;
- “Engaging in early and meaningful outreach with states, tribal nations, territories, and local communities”;
- “Improving agency responsiveness, technical assistance, and support”; and
- “Using agency resources and environmental reviews to improve impact.”
As far as the last part of the plan, agencies will be tasked with using existing technology to complete the plan’s aims. The plan calls for agencies to use “technology, data, and tools to efficiently and holistically assess environmental and community effects, including information on climate change effects, and identify ways to use new technology to collect, analyze, share, and publicly communicate relevant information.”
According to OMB Deputy Director Jason Miller, additional resources for agencies can be expected to take the form of new personnel to aid the completion of the plan’s goals. Miller noted that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is part of the infrastructure implementation team and that the team is working on making sure agencies are adequately staffed to handle the law’s implementation.
“One thing that we’re working hard on is ensuring we have the right personnel and we have the right expertise across the Federal government, not just for permitting, but for executing the entirety of the bipartisan infrastructure law,” Miller said on a press call May 10.
“We’ve worked on a number of hiring actions,” he added. “We are measuring and managing the hiring across the entirety, and one piece of that is ensuring that our agencies have the adequate staffing in order to execute to execute on what will be … an increased volume of projects in the months and years.”
As the administration looks to make use of the billions in broadband funding, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have asked the National Telecommunications and Information Association to focus on prioritizing affordability and inclusivity in distributing funding.