|For Immediate Release
June 6, 2012
Contact: Charlotte Sellmyer, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Full Committee Markup of
H.R. 4377, “Responsibly And Professionally Invigorating Development (RAPID) Act of 2012”
Chairman Smith: Over the past three years the President has tried several strategies to create jobs. But the American economy is still struggling and people are still suffering. Since President Obama took office, 1 million more Americans are out of work and we have run up the three largest deficits in U.S. history.
The federal regulatory process remains an obstacle to job creation and business expansion. For example, our outdated and overly burdensome environmental review process keeps jobs and workers waiting for approval from government agencies in Washington. Employers and investors can’t move forward without the necessary permits, and without confidence in the process.
I thank Mr. Ross for introducing the RAPID Act, which helps put American workers back on the job and gets the economy moving again.
A recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce identified 351 proposed energy projects that, if approved, could generate up to two million jobs annually.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 serves important goals, which should be preserved. But as the Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law learned at its April 25 hearing on the RAPID Act, the NEPA process today does not resemble what its authors envisioned.
The environmental review process typically takes years, sometimes more than a decade, producing environmental documents thousands of pages long that only a specialist could comprehend.
Because there are no mandatory deadlines, capital is tied up indefinitely while the review process grinds on.
A 2008 study found that federal agencies take nearly three and a half years on average to complete an environmental impact statement, and that this length of time is increasing.
Navigating this process can cost job creators millions of dollars when they need to hire consultants and lawyers. But the cost to the economy is exponentially greater.
The key is finding the right balance between economic progress and the proper level of analysis. The RAPID Act does not force agencies to approve or deny any projects. The bill simply ensures that the process agencies use to make permit decisions is transparent and logical.
The RAPID Act draws upon established definitions and concepts from existing NEPA regulations and common-sense suggestions from across the political spectrum – including from this Administration’s own Council on Environmental Quality and Jobs Council – to make the federal environmental review and permit process more efficient and transparent.
In many respects the bill is modeled on the permit streamlining section of a transportation bill that passed the 109th Congress with nearly unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats alike (412 to 8). A study by the Federal Highway Administration found that this legislation has cut the time for completing an environmental impact statement nearly in half.