Miss. Senator Calls for Unified Agency Standards to Speed Project Approvals

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today attended a hearing to consider S. 2800, “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.”

In his questions to R.D. James, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Wicker highlighted recent progress by the Trump Administration to expedite major infrastructure projects by providing streamlined standards between agencies under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

“One recurring problem that we have are the delays which take place when multiple agencies have conflicting regulations and differing policies on what is required for approval of a project,” Wicker said. “Let me applaud the Administration’s goals to streamline NEPA and the regulations at multiple agencies to achieve NEPA compliance and hope projects can be built in a timely manner.”

James committed to working with Senator Wicker to help expedite the NEPA permitting process.

Wicker also called for a single cost-benefit ratio for calculating the viability of a given infrastructure project. The Army Corps of Engineers publishes a single interest rate each year that largely reflects the prevailing market rate, whereas the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) uses a fixed 7 percent interest rate that is much higher. The different interest rates can be problematic for projects in rural states like Mississippi that qualify under the lower rate, but fail to meet OMB’s standard.