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Pence Promises Quicker Federal Permitting of Infrastructure Projects

Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration wants to significantly reduce wait times for federal permitting on infrastructure projects, and pointed to the White House's quick approval of the controversial Keystone XL (KXL) and Dakota Access (DAPL) oil pipelines as strong support for energy development.

At a working luncheon in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Pence mentioned energy twice and pipelines once during his 15-minute speech. The luncheon was part of what the administration has dubbed “Infrastructure Week.”

Pence said that as a former governor of Indiana, he understands the importance of infrastructure. He added that Trump also understands its importance, with his extensive background in business and real estate.

"[Infrastructure] is about working families trying to get their kids to school safely and efficiently," Pence said. "It's about small businesses and family farms trying to get their goods to the market. It's about ending wait times at airports and train stations so commuters can get to work and lead more productive lives.

"It's about opening the floodgates for affordable American energy, the lifeblood of American growth. And it's about what President Trump said [in Cincinnati, OH] yesterday: 'Bringing back our jobs, restoring our dreams and putting America first, with the best infrastructure in the world.'"

Pence said that Trump "has already taken decisive action to rebuild America. After years of politics and pointless delays under previous administrations...[Trump] quickly green-lighted the KXL and DAPL pipelines, opening up pathways for American energy and growth."

Shortly after taking office, Trump signed presidential memorandums to advance construction of the KXL and DAPL pipelines, projects that had been thwarted or delayed by the Obama administration.

The vice president also acknowledged the eight governors at the luncheon, including his successor, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican.

"The president has signed more bills rolling back regulatory red tape standing in the way of growth than any president in American history," Pence said. "And the president has actually ordered a top-to-bottom review of federal permitting. I can say to these governors, under this administration bureaucrats are no longer going to be a barrier to rebuilding America."

He added that the Trump administration is "going to restore accountability to infrastructure and forge new partnerships with your states and your cities, but also with businesses, to leverage private sector expertise and tap into the bottomless well of American innovation. We'll revolutionize federal permitting and review with the goal of reducing wait times from 10 years to two years."

Lawmakers and energy executives have long complained about permitting delays, and the issue has gained some traction during the first few months of the Trump administration. Executives told a Senate panel last March that permitting delays for infrastructure projects, including for natural gas pipelines, are unreasonable, create uncertainty and higher costs for the sector.

That same month, Trump signed a bill repealing a rule -- also known as Planning Rule 2.0 -- by the Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that called for revisions to the BLM's resource management planning process. The oil and gas industry and its allies had opposed the rule, implemented by the Obama administration, on the grounds that it would make planning more difficult and the process more time-consuming.

In late April, Trump signed an executive order that calls for DOI and the Department of Commerce to create a streamlined permitting process for privately funded seismic data research and collection in the offshore areas, among other things.

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