- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2017

President Trump said Friday he’s taking steps to speed up the permitting process for building new roads and bridges by creating a special council to cut through federal red tape.

Speaking at the Department of Transportation in Washington, Mr. Trump demonstrated his contempt for what he called unnecessary regulations by lifting a heavy binder of environmental impact rules required for one road project in Maryland, the Inter County Connector highway linking U.S. 1 and Interstate 270.

He said the report weighed 70 pounds and cost $24 million, and the president tossed the binder onto the stage floor with a thud.

“How can a country prosper under this kind of nonsense?” Mr. Trump asked the audience of labor leaders and state transportation officials. “I was not elected to continue a failed system, I was elected to change it.”

The president, who is promoting a $1 trillion plan to rebuild U.S. infrastructure, said his administration is embarking on “massive permit reform” to speed up projects that often take more than 10 years to receive final approval from various federal and state agencies.

At the heart of the plan will be a new federal council designed “to help project managers navigate the bureaucratic maze,” Mr. Trump said. The panel would have the authority to speed up permitting and impose fines on federal agencies that slow down action on permit applications.

“We will hold the bureaucracy accountable,” Mr. Trump said. “No longer can we allow these rules and regulations to tie down our economy, chain up our prosperity and sap our great American spirit.”

But two lawmakers told Mr. Trump in a letter Thursday that his administration is ignoring a tool enacted into law during the last Congress to speed up federal permitting. Sens. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, and Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said Mr. Trump should make use of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act by appointing a director for the federal permitting improvement steering council.

“It took President Obama seven months to appoint an executive director, and FPISC barely got off the ground before the election,” the lawmakers wrote. “And now, given the administration’s stated interest in facilitating the permitting process and infrastructure development, it is perplexing that the administration has not taken full advantage of the powerful tools Congress gave it … to accomplish those goals.”

“We are increasingly concerned that the administration’s failure to appoint a permanent executive director is significantly impairing the ability of FPISC to achieve its mission of greater coordination across government,” they said.

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