NAHB is welcoming proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act announced July 19 as a way to streamline a cumbersome and bureaucratic permitting process – and allow federal regulators to spend more time on species preservation rather than creating red tape.
Builders and developers whose projects require a federal permit (typically for working in wetlands) because their property affects endangered species, or a designated critical habitat for those species, triggering the ESA’s Section 7 consultation process, must first consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers, usually resulting in permitting delays and the loss of buildable lots.
Members will be especially interested in two of the proposed changes.
One would streamline the consultation process by encouraging FWS, NOAA, and the Corps to agree upon a set of general requirements when it is clear that the impacts on species will be minimal rather than requiring the federal agencies to perform an individual analysis for each proposed activity, thus shortening the wait for permits.
Another proposal would require FWS and NOAA to clearly specify what information the developer or builder must supply so the agencies can complete their review.
These regulatory changes should help eliminate some of the time-consuming and often unnecessary permitting delays that have plagued the Section 7 consultation process since its inception.
The other significant change concerns the regulatory definition of “destruction or adverse modification” of critical habitat. Here, the administration has proposed to remove controversial language that had sought to hold developers and builders responsible if federal regulators determined their construction activities could delay the development of habitat features – even those habitat features not found on their property.
“NAHB appreciates this administration’s recognition that simplifying federal regulatory and permitting requirements can go a long way toward actually accomplishing important environmental goals,” said NAHB Environmental Issues Committee chairman Ted Clifton.
For additional information, contact Michael Mittelholzer.