OMB to expand permit-tracking initiative

Tuesday - 1/17/2012, 7:55pm EST

The White House will establish a permitting project manager effort to further its initiative to reduce red tape for businesses.

President Barack Obama announced Tuesday during a meeting of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, the Office of Management and Budget will lead the new program to "establish performance metrics, track progress against goals and adapt best practices across agencies."

"We're using these projects to learn lessons that we can scale across a whole range of projects throughout the federal government moving forward." -- President Barack Obama

"Building on administration efforts to streamline permitting, I issued an executive order to expedite review of job-creating infrastructure projects, and to track their progress on a new public dashboard," Obama said today. "All 14 projects are on track. Most importantly, we're using these projects to learn lessons that we can scale across a whole range of projects throughout the federal government moving forward."

OMB announced Nov. 30 the release of a new Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard to track federal permitting and the environmental review process for expedited high-priority infrastructure projects. The administration put the dashboard on Performance.gov.

In November, OMB Deputy Director for Management Jeff Zients wrote on the OMB blog, "These projects were identified pursuant to a Presidential memorandum, in which the President directed agencies to expedite environmental reviews and permit decisions for a selection of high priority infrastructure projects that will create a significant number of jobs, have already identified necessary funding, and where the significant steps remaining before construction are within the control and jurisdiction of the federal government and can be completed within 18 months."

Giving the public better access

Obama's announcement at the council meeting is part of his goal to expand the effort to give the public better access to information on the status of federal permits and reviews for a variety of major infrastructure projects.

Zients wrote in the blog "The public will be able to learn exactly where a project is in the review process, and who to contact if it is delayed. In addition, the dashboard will highlight best practices and coordination efforts that have been successful in making federal permitting and review decisions more efficient so that the administration can apply these lessons broadly to further improve the permitting process for all projects."

The permitting dashboard lists all projects going through the faster process, and includes three success stories. Most recently, the Forest Service, in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management, completed its expedited review of the Continental Resources' permit to drill in the Dakota Prairie Grasslands in North Dakota.

BLM and the Forest Service said they cut 20 percent off the time it usually takes to review such a permit by using environmental consultants to collect certain information required to complete the review and environmental analysis.