Vote Explanation for H.R. 1654 — Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act

I voted against H.R. 1654, the Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act, which codifies a ‘one-stop-shop’ permitting process to expedite construction of all new or expanded water surface storage projects, such as dams, on federal lands.

Under this legislation, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) would be designated as the lead agency for coordinating the new review process, establishing a schedule, and conducting a unified environmental review that all participating agencies would use as a basis for their approval decisions.

House Republicans are labeling this legislation as an infrastructure bill, arguing that environmental review and permitting by federal agencies is an impediment to project construction. While I support regulatory reform when appropriate, in this instance agency permitting has not been a significant impediment to water infrastructure construction. In fact, according to the BOR, not a single project has been denied construction because of a lack of coordination among agencies during environmental reviews. Rather, project economics, pricing, and repayment challenges are the primary drivers for delays and rejections.

As written, the bill has the potential to undermine the work of other federal agencies fulfilling their statutory obligations to assess the environmental impacts pursuant to the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other environmental laws. There is also concern that expediting this review process could lead to poor or rushed impact analyses, potentially resulting in infrastructure collapse and economic disruption.

This legislation is a solution in search of a problem. I am always willing to work with my colleagues across the aisle to make our government more efficient, transparent, and accountable. This bill however, is an unnecessary attack on our bedrock environmental laws disguised as regulatory reform.