Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following statement during the Committee’s markup of the Permitting Litigation Efficiency Act of 2018 (H.R. 5468). This bill, introduced by Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law Subcommittee Chairman Tom Marino (R-Pa.), eliminates bureaucratic delays and reforms litigation processes that will allow needed infrastructure projects to be completed in a timely manner.
Chairman Goodlatte: America’s voters sent the 115th Congress to Washington to help turn around this Nation’s struggling economy. In large part, the voters wanted us to do that by making sure government finally got out of the way of recovery.
The Judiciary Committee has been doing everything it can to fulfill that mandate. The Trump Administration has as well—and the gains Congress and the Administration have made to date in cutting red tape have translated directly into record lows in unemployment, higher wages, a booming stock market, and surging levels of consumer confidence and spending.
The specific issue before us today—reform of America’s outdated, slow-moving permitting system—forms a big part of that picture. And the legislation before us today, the Permitting Litigation Efficiency Act of 2018, would represent a very big step forward in achieving a federal permitting system that is both fair and efficient.
Truth be told, the Committee made a big down payment on permit streamlining reform during the 114th Congress, helping in the enactment of title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.
FAST-41 contained the biggest permit streamlining reforms in recent years. Its implementation is in full swing now, and it has already begun to clear the logjams that have stood in the way of permitting decisions for many of the Nation’s largest proposed construction projects.
The Trump Administration has been working hard to implement FAST-41 as effectively as it can. The same week we held a legislative hearing on today’s bill, the Administration’s leading permitting agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing to even more steps to reach quicker permitting decisions, including by agreeing to meet a two-year target for the issuance of decisions for large infrastructure projects.
These reforms mean faster decisions—and faster delivery of jobs and investment for projects that win a permitting “green light.”
But there remains much work to be done. Good as it is, FAST-41 is scheduled by its own terms to sunset by 2022 unless Congress extends it. Further, FAST-41 applied only to specific categories of the largest construction projects—those involving $200 million or more in investment.
Many, many other projects still need permit streamlining reform. And, to help ensure FAST-41 is not allowed to expire, Congress should legislate permit streamlining reform applicable to all construction projects before FAST-41’s sunset arrives.
The Permitting Litigation Efficiency Act of 2018, of which I am proud to be an original cosponsor, delivers precisely that reform. It establishes a strong incentive for permitting agencies to wrap up their permitting decisions—for “yea” or for “nay”—within two years. It also, like FAST-41, sets a prompt statute of limitations for lawsuits challenging those decisions, requires those suits to be based on matters actually presented to the permitting agencies during the administrative process, and assures that judges considering preliminary injunction requests in those cases will take into better account the potential economic and environmental harms of delaying project construction by injunctions.
These are balanced, bipartisan and sorely needed reforms. I urge my colleagues to support this important piece of legislation.