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Federal Agencies Are Expected to Sign an Agreement Speeding Up Environmental Reviews

At least a dozen federal agencies are expected to sign an agreement today to reduce the requirements for permitting large, multi-agency infrastructure projects, Bloomberg reports.

Until now, major infrastructure projects often involved environmental reviews and permitting processes across several agencies, which critics say leads to time-consuming redundancy. President Donald Trump has made reforming the federal permitting process, which he called "a massive self-inflicted wound on our country," a priority.

In August, Trump issued an executive order implementing a firm deadline for agencies to complete environmental reviews and issue a decision within two years. The White House's infrastructure plan, released in February, called for a "One Agency, One Decision" environmental review process, whereby each agency would focus on reviewing their "area of expertise" while relying on the evaluations of other agencies, a process that would require all involved agencies to sign a single environmental review.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, argue the Trump administration doesn't want to streamline the environmental review process so much as erode it.

The memorandum of understanding, which is expected to be signed by the leaders of the Departments of Transportation, Energy, Interior, Commerce, and Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is a step toward that goal. It will designate one agency to guide projects through the environmental review process and set deadlines for simultaneous reviews.