Small Business Committee examines burdens of permitting process

The House Small Business Committee held a hearing last week to examine how the federal permitting process burdens businesses, particularly small businesses.

The expert witnesses provided testimony on 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.

“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,” committee chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) said. “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.’

Chabot said lawmakers must look for ways to simplify and streamline the permitting process to ease the regulatory burden.

“Getting a permit to start a business, or to build anything, requires going to multiple agencies, often at federal, state, and local levels,” Philip Howard, chair of Common Good, said. “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.”

Louis Griesemer, president of Springfield Underground, Inc., testifying on behalf of National Stone, Sand, Gravel Association, said the process gets more complicated when companies need to expand operations or open or upgrade new facilities.

“A host of federal requirements come into play, among them the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Historic Preservation Act,” Griesemer said. “These statutes often require businesses to prove that we should not fall under their jurisdiction. 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.”

Status quo is not an option, Mark Hayden, general manager of Missoula Electric Cooperative, said.

“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,” Hayden said.