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CEOs Say Regulatory Reform Key to Climate, Infrastructure Plan Success

May 19, 2021 by TWN Staff
The approach to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in New York. (Photo by Dan McCue)

If the White House and Democrats in Congress truly want to achieve President Joe Biden’s economic goals, they should not overlook the need to modernize and improve the nation’s cumbersome regulatory system, according to a new report from The Business Roundtable, a trade association of company CEOs.

“We share President Biden’s goals of creating more American jobs, transitioning to a lower carbon energy future and ensuring the United States remains at the forefront of global innovation. As the nation rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic, these goals are even more important to help rebuild the U.S. economy and increase opportunity for Americans,” said Douglas Peterson, President and CEO of S&P Global Inc. and chair of the Business Roundtable Smart Regulation Committee.

“In order to achieve these goals, it is critical that the Biden Administration prioritize modernizing the U.S. permitting and regulatory system in a way that delivers for all stakeholders while minimizing harmful effects on innovation, economic growth and the American people,” Peterson added.

In its report, “Smart Regulation for the Innovation Economy,” the Business Roundtable notes meeting the president’s climate and jobs goals will require a massive amount of new public and private sector investment.

“America will need to electrify its transportation sector, substantially expand its use of renewable sources of energy, and connect these new resources to population centers. And as the pandemic has shown, broadband access must be extended to provide underserved communities with equitable educational and economic opportunities,” the authors wrote.

“Achieving these goals requires a predictable and expeditious permitting system in which reviews
take two years, not five,” they said. “Recent bipartisan reforms to the permitting process — including the Federal
Permitting Improvement Steering Council, established under the Obama-Biden Administration —
can help realize these objectives faster. [Business Roundtable] urges the Biden Administration to preserve and extend these reforms.”

“Building a more equitable economic future for Americans also depends, in part, on a governing
approach that is flexible enough to adapt to changing economic circumstances — changes that have
been accelerated by the pandemic. The Biden Administration’s success will depend on enacting
policies that are designed to promote job creation and equitable growth without delay. Indeed,
the regulatory landscape is just as important in shaping the future economy as are tax, fiscal, and
monetary policy,” the report continued.

The Business Roundtable CEOs stress they do not oppose regulation. What they are advocating for, they say, iis “a smarter approach to regulation” that delivers for their stakeholders while minimizing harmful effects on innovation, economic growth, and job creation.

“More rapid innovation across the economy — particularly in medicine, artificial intelligence, low
carbon energy, autonomous vehicles, cybersecurity, data privacy, and robotics — is the key to 21st century American prosperity. However, achieving the breakthroughs that are needed will require
regulators to quickly recognize emerging issues, seek input from experts, act in a coordinated and
judicious manner, and maintain flexibility and the willingness to change tack as markets mature,” the report said.

This recommendations that make up the balance of the report focus on three areas — adapting infrastructure permitting to 21st century timetables; improving the regulatory process to foster innovation and economic opportunity; and strengthening international regulatory cooperation.

Specific recommendations for policymakers include: 

• Address the FAST-41 sunset, currently set at the end of 2022. The sunset is already deterring project sponsors from opting into the process. FAST-41, also called the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, established new coordination and oversight procedures for infrastructure projects being reviewed by federal agencies; 

• Reinstate parts of E.O. 13807 (which, among other provisions, expanded FAST-41 reforms to more projects) including the two-year goal, multi-agency coordination requirements, dispute resolution processes, and “One Federal Decision” framework;

• Uphold provisions of the CEQ NEPA rule from July 2020 that add presumptive timelines, coordination of reviews, and dispute resolution mechanisms;

• Commit to earlier public notification and opportunity for input on rulemakings.

• Include planning for retrospective review in major rulemakings.

• Hold independent regulatory commissions to the same standards as other agencies. 

• Improve agency coordination to avoid duplication and overlap.

• Expand on President Obama’s E.O. 13609 by issuing a new order that would promote a whole-of-government approach to identifying differences between U.S. and international regulatory approaches and direct agencies to consider international regulatory implications during the rulemaking process.

The full report is available here.

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