What began as a Trump Administration executive order cutting government red tape made it into the final version of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed by Congress in the wee hours of November 5th.

The provision — known as One Federal Decision (OFD) — promises to shorten the federal permit review process from as much as 10-30 years to “only” two years. It codifies the order (E. O. 13807) signed by President Trump, August 15, 2017, and supplies most of the text for the 15 pages buried deep in the 2700-page final version of the infrastructure bill.

Oddly enough, President Biden struck down the Trump OFD order on his first day in office when it was incorporated into the executive order smashing the Keystone Pipeline agreement designed to increase U.S. gas and oil production. Since the president does not have line-item veto authority, when Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (his first major legislative victory) he reestablished the Trump plan to cut red tape from federal projects.

The History Lesson

“Given that permit reviews can involve up to 30 statutes, and as many as a dozen departments and agencies, the OFD modifications were essentially commonsense changes to a broken process,” according to an opinion piece in The Hill.

The authors of the article are Jeffrey A. Rosen, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former deputy secretary of transportation. DJ Gribbin served in the Trump White House, where he led the effort for One Federal Decision. They had more to say:

“The framework required that agencies coordinate from the outset by using a joint schedule, empower a lead agency to enforce it, require agencies to work at the same time and not wait in turn, generate a readable review document with page limits, and produce a timely decision within 90 days of finishing the review document.

“Preceding the development of the OFD framework, studies had suggested that the cumulative impact of six-year permitting delays would impose an estimated $3.7 trillion in additional costs (for roads, rail and bridges alone, the approximated extra cost was $1.65 trillion). Avoiding these costs saves more than the entire cost of the current bipartisan infrastructure bill — savings that could be used for actually building infrastructure projects.” 

Strange how the Washington merry-go-round works and even stranger that obviously good ideas have a way of coming to the surface of the swamp regardless of which political party is in power. Now, if we could only get something similar going in Sacramento.

By Dave Sorem, P.E. ECA Government Affairs Chairman Email: [email protected]