America is a country that has been built on opportunity. For generations, men and women have found ways to develop our resources, expand our infrastructure, and grow our economy. And in doing so, they have left a legacy and created new opportunity for generations to come. Many, however, are currently being lost to a broken federal permitting process that hinders development and impedes growth.
Imagine if the unnecessary delays and excessive red tape that characterize our current permitting process were in place when some of our most important and iconic national achievements were being built. The Hoover Dam likely would not have been built in only five years, and the Empire State Building could have taken well more than a year to construct. According to a 2014 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, federal permitting is incredibly slow, noting the average preparation time for environmental impact statements finalized in 2012 was 4.6 years.
“Project No Project,” a 2010 study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, shows that hundreds for projects across the country are stalled or never built due to a “not in my backyard” mentality and the resulting activism. Through tactics like the organization of local opposition, zoning law changes, permit opposition and lawsuits, activists block and even kill projects that could create millions of jobs and trillions in revenue across the country, including here in North Dakota.
In fact, were it not for such tactics, the Chamber estimated that the 351 projects included in its study could have generated a $1.1 trillion short-term boost to the economy and created 1.9 million jobs annually during the projected seven years of construction. And they would have continued to create jobs after construction. The study estimated that in aggregate, each year of operation of these projects could have generated $145 billion in economic benefits and involved 791,000 jobs.
These delays and missed opportunities also have global implications. According to the World Bank and International Finance Corporation’s most recent “Ease of Doing Business” index, the United States ranks 34th in the world when it comes to permitting and building projects. If we’re not able to keep up with our foreign competitors, foreign investment will go elsewhere and their economies, rather than ours, will enjoy the benefits.
Fortunately, we have the chance to resolve our federal permitting problems and again seize opportunities to grow, but the solution lies with Congress, where permit streamlining legislation is currently being considered. This legislation, which enjoys broad bipartisan support at all levels of government and across the business community, would designate one lead agency responsible for managing and coordinating the review process and place time limits on decision making and legal challenges for infrastructure projects without changing substantive public safety requirements. I urge North Dakota’s representatives in Congress—and all those who want to encourage job creation and economic growth in our state and across the country—to support this legislation.
It’s imperative that we address the inefficiency in our federal permitting process that is currently crippling good projects throughout the United States. Doing so will help us get the economy back on track, produce good-paying jobs, and continue to create opportunities like those on which this country was built.