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Expediting Economic Growth: How Streamlining Federal Permitting Can Cut Red Tape for Small Businesses

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Washington, September 6, 2017 | comments

WASHINGTON – Today, the House Small Business Committee held a hearing examining how the current federal permitting process burdens small businesses.

The federal permitting process is a component of this vast regulatory state. Usually before a business can begin to open its doors, launch a project, or begin an initiative, it must obtain a number of permits before moving forward.  But the current permitting process is a maze that businesses—big and small—must navigate.  And as with regulations generally, the federal permitting process disproportionately affects small businesses,” said House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH).

[w]e must continue to look for ways to simplify and streamline the permitting process. Especially to ease the regulatory burden on small businesses, our economy’s lifeblood,” added Chabot.

Small Businesses Must Overcome High Hurdles to Obtain Permits

The witnesses provided testimony detailing how small businesses must overcome a number of hurdles—including wading through regulatory overlap, enduring lengthy delays in permitting decisions, and bearing increased costs—as they try to obtain all the appropriate federal permits before launching projects.

Getting a permit to start a business, or to build anything, requires going to multiple agencies, often at federal, state, and local levels. These agencies rarely coordinate their requirements. Often their demands are duplicative, and sometimes conflict with one another. Nor do they honor the practical implications of the regulations—not the costs, time constraints, or diversion of energy,” said Philip Howard, Chair of Common Good.

It gets even more complicated when we need to expand our operations, open a new or temporary operation, or merely do minor construction work at a site to upgrade our facilities to provide needed material for crucial infrastructure projects. A host of federal requirements come into play, among them the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Historic Preservation Act. These statutes often require businesses to prove that we should not fall under their jurisdiction, said Louis Griesemer, President of Springfield Underground, Inc., Springfield, MO, testifying on behalf of National Stone, Sand, Gravel Association.  “A 'regulated until proven otherwise'approach is very costly and difficult for any business, particularly a small company like mine, without the resources for dedicated compliance staff that larger corporations employ. This is not an efficient use of resources for either the company or the agencies, and punishes the businesses who are trying to comply and care deeply about safety and the environment.”

For me, the timing of this hearing could not be more appropriate. The wildfires burning in Western Montana are having a devastating effect on our state and local economies. Lives have been lost, homes have been lost, and hundreds of resident evacuations due to the threat of fire, including my own family,” said Mark Hayden, General Manager of Missoula Electric Cooperative in Missoula, MT.

“I fully recognize that the fires burning in Montana today were all lightning sparked, but also realize the increased risk that long delays in federal approval of permit applications, inadequate fuels reduction programs, and other factors bring to our co-op and to our infrastructure,” Hayden added.

Flawed Regulatory Structure

Mr. Howard explained that, within our current regulatory structure, no one seems to be in charge, testifying, “[t]here’s no one with the responsibility to ask, ‘What’s the right thing to do here?’ No one in government has the job of balancing the demands of different agencies. No one has the job of giving a small business a permit. Instead, American regulation is a dense jungle, impenetrable to all except large companies with legal staffs of hundreds of lawyers.”

“The Status Quo is not an Option”

As Mr. Hayden testified, [f]or us, the status quo is not an option. We need streamlined, expedited procedures that allow for timely implementation of projects to protect the long-term health of our forests, our small businesses, and the overall economies of the communities we serve.”

You can view the full video of today’s hearing HERE and read the full witness testimony HERE.

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