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Leaning on NEPA to Improve the Federal Permitting Process

January 2015

Citation: 45 ELR 10018

Issue: 1

Author: David J. Hayes

President Barack Obama has launched a little-known effort to improve the permitting process for infrastructure projects. The president’s initiative has identified a number of permitting improvements, but it does not include a serious effort to force multiple agencies to align their permitting processes. A key to forcing multiple agencies to work together on project reviews and approvals is found in an unlikely place: NEPA. The statute is overdue for a makeover that will strengthen how it identifies and analyzes environmental impacts for federal decisionmakers. In doing so, it can provide the framework that will require multiple agencies to act as one when reviewing large projects.

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David J. Hayes is a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School. He was Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1999-2001 and 2009-2013.

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