Anyone who has had the misfortune of trying to navigate the federal permitting process, regardless of their political leaning, will attest to the fact that it is in dire need of reform — the kind that only our federal delegation can provide. Federal permitting reform would help major infrastructure and energy projects move forward more quickly and efficiently here in Utah and across the country, benefitting our economy and our communities. 

As both a state legislator, and in my profession where I serve as an environmental engineer, I have had more than my fair share of experience dealing with federal permitting issues. The inefficiencies within the federal permitting process can unnecessarily tie up large-scale energy and infrastructure projects for many years, delaying the benefits of these investments from ever reaching Utah communities. 

Depending on the type of project under review or its geographic location, infrastructure projects can be subject to various permitting regimes at all levels of government. In a state like Utah, where the majority of our land is federally owned, the federal review process is almost unavoidable. In addition to complying with federal requirements, state agencies and localities must also carry out additional reviews and permitting based on state and local statutes. 

Obviously, these overlapping permitting regimes create massive redundancies and delays that can slow or prevent economic and infrastructure development efforts from ever moving forward. Not only does this convoluted process prevent new energy and infrastructure projects from breaking ground, but the delays can increase costs and risks for investors, undermining the financial viability of projects that could otherwise help secure our economic and energy future.

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By reforming the federal permitting process, Congress can help Utah continue to move critical projects forward, enabling us to invest in improving our infrastructure and building out our energy capabilities. It can create well-paying jobs that support Utah workers and families and strengthen local economies. It will also give the Utah Legislature the resources and tools we need to encourage and incentivize economic growth in communities throughout the state. 

What this does not mean, however, is that reforming the federal permitting process would require any loosening of our environmental standards. All responsible permitting reform would do is increase transparency and accountability to ensure government agencies and review boards are following best practices in order to reduce duplication of effort and minimize bureaucratic friction to help move vital, economy-building infrastructure and energy initiatives forward more quickly and efficiently.  

To be fair, Congress has made some limited bipartisan progress to address our nation’s broken permitting process recently. For instance, the debt ceiling agreement passed earlier this year included a few modest reforms of the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act. The House also recently passed H.R. 1, which includes critical permitting reforms that will help accelerate the construction of key infrastructure projects in Utah and also nationwide.

Fortunately, this is an issue that Republicans have long supported — and one on which even Democrats are beginning to see the light. U.S. senators, including Utah’s own Mitt Romney, should seize this opportunity by using his role in the Senate to pass bipartisan federal permitting reform without delay. However, with the end of the federal legislative session in sight, it is critical that lawmakers work together to pass comprehensive permitting reform before the end of the year. If they are successful, this reform will ensure the completion of infrastructure projects in Utah that will bless the lives of many for generations to come. 

Rep. Tim Jimenez represents House District 28 in the Utah House of Representatives.