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Trump signs order rolling back environmental permit process

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World Pipelines,

President Trump issued an executive order on environmental permitting that seeks to solve a longstanding problem for industry by placing firm time limits on federal agencies to issue permits and punishing those that fail to meet the President's goals.

The executive order will eliminate some and streamline other permitting regulations and speed construction of roads, bridges and pipelines. Trump declared that the moves would fix a “badly broken” infrastructure system in America and bring manufacturing jobs back to the country.

The President has vowed to pass a US$1 trillion package to revitalise the nation’s infrastructure. He promised in his election campaign to press for widespread deregulation to spur business spending. The former New York real estate developer has complained that it takes too long to get permits for big construction projects.

A key element of the new executive order rolls back standards set by former President Barack Obama that required the federal government to account for climate change and sea-level rise when building infrastructure.

"The Executive Order will make the environmental and permitting processes needed for major infrastructure projects more efficient and effective," according to the White House.

This will be accomplished by eliminating the "patchwork" of agencies conducting separate environmental reviews for one project, co-ordinating the entire process through what the order calls the "One Federal Decision policy."

This policy places the lead federal agency in charge of collecting all other relevant "environmental reviews and permitting decisions needed for major infrastructure projects," according to a White House fact sheet. Strict timelines will be put in place under the order by each agency signing a joint Record of Decision, which gives them 90 days to issue all federal permits.

The order also establishes a "two-year goal" to process all environmental documents for major infrastructure projects.

On top of that, the White House Council on Environmental Quality will develop and implement a government-wide "action plan" to improve the speed and efficiency of environmental reviews.

The White House council will also handle "disagreements" between federal agencies in order to prevent any delays "amid bureaucratic disputes."

Added to that, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will implement a "two-year Government-wide modernisation goal" to ensure federal agencies "take meaningful steps" to achieve the improvements outlined by the order.

OMB will also have the ability to enforce punitive measures based on an agencies lack of performance in meeting the requirements laid out in the order.

"OMB will establish a performance accountability system and score each agency on their implementation of the Executive Order," the fact sheet said. "Poor performance will be considered in budget formulation and could result in the imposition of available penalties.”

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