Session B6

Please Permit Me to Introduce 21st Century Infrastructure (NEPA and Permitting for the Ambitious Agenda)

Manisha Patel

11:15 AM – 12:45 PM ET

About the Presentation

After months of debate and political wrangling, on August 10, 2021, the United States Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) [H.R. 3684, 117th Cong. (2021)].  With legislative text that addresses authorization, policy, and investments in transportation, water, power and energy, environmental remediation, public lands, broadband, and resilience, it has been heralded as the most significant legislative action on infrastructure in generations.  To achieve the ambitious infrastructure goals embodied in the IIJA, infrastructure siting, permitting, and construction will have to happen at a pace that is fundamentally faster than what we now achieve - and, it will have to be decidedly more coordinated across sectors and agencies. Notably, the IIJA does include improved federal environmental review and permitting provisions. But will these permitting reforms prove to be enough to meet the moment, or will we find ourselves embroiled in years of regulatory limbo amidst this profound change in infrastructure policy? This panel -- all veterans of decades of attempts to accelerate environmental reviews and streamline infrastructure permitting -- will discuss the systemic and regulatory challenges to building for the future. After providing a brief overview of the key permitting provisions in the IIJA, the panel will engage in a lively debate to answer questions like:  How will we optimize and prioritize the planning and delivery of the critical infrastructure improvements we so desperately need?  How do we implement the environmental review and permitting reforms that emphasize speed without sacrificing the protection of the environment and inclusion of all impacted communities in the decision-making process?  What can be done to avoid and redress the collective mistakes made in constructing our fundamental infrastructure systems, while sustainably and equitably building networks that will literally move at the speed of light?  In closing the session, the panel will endeavor to provide some touchstones for progress based on the lessons learned from past environmental reviews and permitting reforms.

About the Moderator

Eric Beightel
Principal Infrastructure Policy/Environmental Strategist
HDR Inc.

Eric has over 20 years of experience in the environmental and transportation fields. He is a nationally recognized expert bringing an unmatched understanding of the environmental laws, regulations, policies and procedures that govern the transportation project development process.

His mastery of the National Environmental Policy Act and complex multijurisdictional problem solving, including working with a broad and diverse range of stakeholders, have yielded some of the last decade’s fundamental federal environmental regulations and policy. He helped lead the development and implementation of the efforts to modernize and improve the federal environmental review process and provided integral technical assistance for the passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

About the Speaker(s)

Ted Boling
Perkins Coie LLP

Edward (Ted) Boling served as the country’s top National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) attorney as counsel and an associate director at the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the Executive Office of the President. Ted served at CEQ, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in Democratic and Republican administrations. His experience includes deep involvement in federal infrastructure permitting issues and the first comprehensive revision of CEQ’sNEPA regulations in 40 years. Drawing on over 30 years of high-level public service, Ted currently advises leaders on infrastructure development projects, agencies that must hire outside counsel, and the environmental professionals that support them on the development of renewable energy, resource development, transportation, and transmission infrastructure. 


Michael Drummond
U.S. Department of Transportation

• Federal Attorney for the Department of Transportation
• Practice includes NEPA and environmental law
• Served as Director, Environmental Process and Policy Practice with WSP USA
• Nine years at the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
• Helped draft the first comprehensive update to CEQ’s NEPA implementing regulations in over forty years
• Led the development of the first government-wide reports on EIS timelines and page counts
• B.A. from the Evergreen State College and J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law


Jomar Maldonado
Director for NEPA
Council on Environmental Quality

Jomar Maldonado is the Director for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) at the Council on Environmental Quality. In this role, he provides policy guidance to Federal agencies and regulatory interpretation to assist with their compliance with NEPA. Jomar has over 15 years of environmental policy and legal experience within the Federal government working on environmental review matters such as NEPA, Environmental Justice, Endangered Species Act, Floodplain Management, Wetlands Protection, and similar requirements. Prior to joining CEQ Jomar worked as the Project Development Team Lead within the Office of Environmental Review and Project Development for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). His career includes 7 years as an environmental attorney with the Program Legal Services in FHWA and 7 years in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Office of Environmental Planning and Historic Preservation, where he functioned as the Agency’s Environmental Officer. In his various roles, he has worked on many complex issues such as the assignment of NEPA responsibilities to States, initiatives to expedite permitting of Federal projects, resiliency/ hazard mitigation, floodplain reviews, environmental review of the National Flood Insurance Program, Buy America requirements, contract administration for highway projects, environmental justice considerations, and tolling and innovative financing for highways.


Manisha Patel, JD
Deputy Executive Director
Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council 

Manisha Patel is the Deputy Executive Director of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council). Ms. Patel has over two decades of experience developing and implementing regulations, policies, and guidance for public agencies and the private sector to deliver infrastructure projects effectively and efficiently, while protecting our natural resources and producing positive outcomes for our communities. Her mastery of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and acumen for solving complex multi-jurisdictional problems, including working with a broad and diverse range of stakeholders, have yielded some of the fundamental federal environmental and energy efficiency regulations and policy of the last decade. Prior to joining the executive staff at the Permitting Council, Ms. Patel was Vice President for Environmental Process and Policy Practice at WSP. Ms. Patel’s former federal service includes serving as the Deputy General Counsel for the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to provide government-wide legal advice on NEPA. She also served as the Deputy Associate Director for Regulatory Policy at CEQ, working closely with federal agencies, state and local governments, stakeholders, and other White House offices to advance sound and practical policy. Prior to joining CEQ, she served in various capacities at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), holding leadership positions in EPA’s Office of General Counsel and Office of Regional Counsel (Region 6).

Ms. Patel has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Northwestern University and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center. She is also an alumna of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Executive Energy Leadership Academy. 


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