Environment
12:08 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

PA Rep: Environmental Permitting 'Not RAPID Enough'

Is it “a common sense solution” to problems resulting from an “outdated, burdensome and convoluted federal permitting system” or an attempt to “undercut responsible decision making?”

By a vote of 229-179, the House Thursday approved RAPID, the Responsibly And Professionally Invigorating Development Act, and sent it to the Senate.

Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA-10) said the review and permitting process for energy, infrastructure and other construction projects which can now take as long as 10 to 15 years.

“My legislation says ‘look get it wrapped up in 4-and-a-half years; if you can’t do that, something’s wrong’ and if there’s an extraordinary circumstance, then you come back and request more time, but you have to explain why and what the ramifications are,” he said.

Specifically the bill establishes an 18-month maximum for an environmental assessment and a 36-month maximum for an environmental impact study.  Opponents to projects would have six months to file suits to block them.

“Streamlining this process will accelerate project approval; creating jobs, boosting our economy, and increasing our energy independence,” Marino said.

He added that in Pennsylvania alone, delays to proposed energy projects cost the state nearly 25,000 jobs and $4 billion in total economic output.

But Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4) argued on the House floor that there “are false assertions about what this [bill] will accomplish “There are $60 billion in water resource projects waiting to be started that have already been through the review process.  There’s an $80 billion backlog in roads, bridges, transit, infrastructure projects … it’s not the review process, it’s a lack of funding,” DeFazio said.

The White House issued a statement strongly opposing RAPID saying:  “The Administration supports efforts to improve the efficiency of the environmental review processes without diminishing requirements for rigorous analyses, agency consultation, and public participation.  This includes an Interagency Steering Committee that will publish a plan with 15 reforms and over 80 actions to modernize the Federal permitting and review of major infrastructure projects.”

Marino denies his measure would limit public participation in the permitting process. 

“Absolutely false; show me anything in my legislation that prevents the public from making statements, from coming and having hearings, from filing opposition — you’re not going to find it, it’s not there,” Marino said.

The second-term Congressman from Lycoming County said streamlining the permitting process will not harm the environment. 

“I live out in the country; I get my water from a well; I like the deer and the bears going through my property; I raised my kids there. So if somebody thinks I would jeopardize my kids health and put them in danger or anybody else, they really don’t know me,” Marino said.

Twelve House Democrats joined 217 Republicans in passing RAPID. A similar bill sponsored by Marino was passed by the House in July 2012 but never came up for a Senate vote.