President Trump issued an Executive Order on July 19, 2017 establishing the Presidential Advisory Council on Infrastructure within the Department of Commerce. The Council will consist of 15 members, drawn from the public and appointed by the president, with experience in sectors such as real estate, finance, transportation and logistics, and environmental policy. The Council is tasked with submitting a report to the president regarding “Federal Government funding, support, and delivery of infrastructure projects in several sectors, including surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resources, renewable energy generation, electricity transmission, broadband, pipelines, and other such sectors as determined by the Council.”
Specifically, the Executive Order directs the Council to make findings and recommendations concerning the following:
- prioritizing the nation's infrastructure needs;
- accelerating pre-construction approval processes;
- developing funding and financing options capable of generating new infrastructure investment over the next 10 years;
- identifying methods to increase public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects, including appropriate statutory or regulatory changes;
- identifying best practices in and opportunities to improve procurement methods, grant procedures, and infrastructure delivery systems; and
- promoting advanced manufacturing and infrastructure-related technological innovation.
Given that the Council will be making recommendations on “accelerating . . . the approval process” for the same types of projects covered by the 2015 FAST Act, it is unclear how this new Council will work with the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC) created by the FAST Act.
The July 19 Executive Order continues President Trump’s focus on infrastructure. In June, his administration dedicated a week to addressing infrastructure issues, which culminated in the announcement of the creation of a new office within the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to streamline the infrastructure permitting process. In May, President Trump released a fact sheet describing his goal of $1 trillion in infrastructure investment. However, it remains to be seen whether major infrastructure legislation will be enacted.
In addition, on July 20, the White House released its Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. This is the first of the biannual regulatory plan issued by the Trump Administration and focuses primarily on withdrawing or revising regulations. For example, the agenda details how EPA and the Department of the Army are publishing a proposed rule to recodify the definition of “waters of the United States” that existed before the Obama Administration changed that definition in 2015. The agenda also states that the Trump Administration plans on withdrawing the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s comprehensive plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electrical power generation, “on grounds that it exceeds the statutory authority provided under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act.”