Branded: Western Caucus Permitting Month: The keys to unlocking rural America

March 4, 2022
Western Caucus Permitting Month: The keys to unlocking rural America
By Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-04)

March is Western Caucus Permitting Month, and our Members are excited to share how improving our current permitting processes will help unleash American potential.
 
The Congressional Western Caucus is at the forefront of the challenges rural America experiences, and our Members are working diligently to address the issues we face, including: 
  • Improving the health and resiliency of our forests, which have – for decades – been mismanaged by the federal government;
  • Ensuring that our nation meets our energy needs while supporting the local communities and economies that rely on revenues from energy development;
  • Promoting investment and research in clean energy advancements that our rural communities are embracing, from wind and solar technologies to new geothermal, carbon capture utilization and storage, and nuclear energy sources like those in my home district of Central Washington state;
  • Encouraging locally-led and voluntary conservation of our lands and waters, as our farmers, ranchers, and private landowners have always done;
  • Strengthening our national security and mineral supply chains by championing safe, responsible domestic mining and refining opportunities;
  • Revitalizing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, from roads and bridges that keep our rural communities on the move to the dams, levies, and irrigation canals our way of life depends on.

Throughout rural America, we understand that these activities are not only critical for the future of our country, but they are the backbone of our communities. The people we represent spend their time outside hunting and enjoying our trails, and their livelihoods depend on clean air and water. They want to pass these traditions on to the next generation, and that starts by prioritizing our environment and our communities.
 
What the people we represent will tell you is that we are at a standstill. Despite millions of dollars of investment from Congress, bipartisan initiatives at all levels of government, and widespread public support for the need to solve the nation's problems, we are struggling to make progress.
 
With so much consensus, you’d think we’d be able to agree that these projects – to strengthen American energy independence, bolster critical infrastructure, and restore and protect healthy ecosystems – would be a priority.
 
Unfortunately, bureaucrats in the federal government have mastered the art of stalling.
 
Landmark environmental protection laws like the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act have become outdated and have grown far too expansive. In many cases, these well-intentioned laws have made obtaining a permit for a new bridge, a new ATV trail, or a new wetland restoration project close to impossible. When it takes decades to get approval or when a permit can be revoked with the stroke of a pen, rural communities like ours are left in the lurch.
 
Over and over again, I hear that we need to get the federal government out of the way, and Western Caucus Members couldn’t agree more. That’s why throughout the month of March, we are taking the opportunity to highlight why reforming our duplicative and burdensome permitting processes is the key to unlocking rural America. We’ll be hosting a Special Order for Members to share examples from their districts, highlighting specific projects across the country that would benefit from a streamlined permitting system, and bringing in leaders – who have experience working to modernize outdated permitting processes – to meet with our Members and staff to discuss future steps.
 
We have solutions to streamline, modernize, and improve permitting across the board. By relying on the best available science and increasing collaboration, we can ensure stronger environmental protections while providing desperately-needed parity and certainty.

Our rural communities deserve the investment and development that is disincentivized by our broken permitting processes. I invite you to follow along as we shed a light on the impacts of the status quo and outline our vision for a future that empowers rural Americans to meet our nation’s challenges.

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