Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council
The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council), charged with improving the Federal infrastructure environmental review and permitting process, announced it will expand its efforts to consider the important voices and culture of America's first inhabitants as the historic infrastructure investment package becomes law during Native American Heritage Month. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the Permitting Council will lead the implementation of important new policies to expand Tribal involvement in Federal infrastructure review and permitting in three critical ways.
"I am thrilled that the IIJA reinforces our responsibility as a nation to honor the Federal Indian trust responsibility and the Biden administration's commitment to equity and environmental justice as we build back better, particularly as it relates to Tribal nations," said Executive Director Christine Harada.
The Permitting Council administers Title 41 of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST-41) and establishes best practices for infrastructure permitting across the Federal government. Under the IIJA, the Permitting Council will help ensure that infrastructure investments benefit communities across Indian Country in the following ways:
- Infrastructure projects sponsored by Tribal entities and located on Tribal lands will have increased access to the benefits of FAST-41, which include public, transparent permitting timetables and increased access to Federal decision-makers with respect to their projects.
- The Permitting Council Executive Director will be authorized to transfer funds directly to Tribes to participate in the Federal review and authorization of infrastructure projects affecting the Tribe, easing the financial burden of participating in project review.
- The IIJA charges the 13 Permitting Council member agencies to develop new, governmentwide best practices to improve agencies' and project sponsor early engagement with Tribal governments to identify potential impacts to natural, archeological, and cultural resources from Federally-authorized infrastructure projects.
Large, complex infrastructure projects can impact the land and cultural resources of any of the 574 Federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes and villages in the U.S. As a result, the IIJA prioritizes input from Tribal nations affected by proposed infrastructure projects and advances opportunities for Tribal involvement in infrastructure developed on Tribal lands.
The Permitting Council has successfully implemented recommendations from the 2019 U.S. Government Accountability Office report to help Federal agencies ensure that their policies better communicate how they consider Tribal input in decision-making for proposed infrastructure projects. And it continues to build on its 2021 Best Practices Report for high-quality nation-to-nation engagement on infrastructure projects through its Tribal initiative. The initiative includes providing governmentwide training for more effective nation-to-nation engagement, hosting nation-to-nation consultations with White House and Permitting Council officials, and facilitating the governmentwide expansion of the Tribal Directory Assistance Tool.