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News and stories from the campaign to reclaim individual responsibility and liberate Americans from bureaucracy and legal fear.

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Common Good’s Gateway Report Receives Extensive Coverage from New York Times, Reuters, AP, Others

Billions for Red Tape,” Common Good’s new report on the economic and environmental costs of delayed permitting of the Gateway Rail Tunnel Project, continues to receive significant national and local attention. On May 18, Jim Dwyer of the New York Times wrote about the project and our report in an essay titled “Less Talk, More Action on Hudson Rail Tunnels, Before It’s Too Late”:

At issue now is not building replacements, but how fast it can be done. The customary pace of public works projects puts the entire region in peril.

If just one of the two tunnels has to be shut down, which could happen at any time, it means train traffic will have to be reduced not by half, but by 75 percent, from 24 trains per hour to six. That’s because the sole remaining tunnel will have to be used for two-way traffic, and time will be lost in reversing signals, according to 'Billions for Red Tape: Focusing on the Approval Process for the Gateway Tunnel Project,' a report from the Common Good, a group that advocates the reform of government processes.

The group is calling for President Obama to issue an executive order that would turn over authority for environmental review on the project to the chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, and for other permitting issues to the federal Office of Management and Budget.

The point is to limit years of meetings with 20 agencies sitting around and planning yet more meetings, said Philip K. Howard, the president of Common Good.

'Inaction is the worst result of all,' Mr. Howard said.

The report—and the event with Senator Cory Booker that launched it—has also been covered by Reuters, the Associated Press, Politico, The Hill, New York and New Jersey media outlets, and numerous trade journals. 

You can read the report here, and its accompanying press release here.

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Common Good Releases New Report: “Billions for Red Tape”

Today Common Good released “Billions for Red Tape: Focusing on the Approval Process for the Gateway Rail Tunnel Project,” our new report showing that improved permitting for the proposed Gateway Rail Tunnel Project would save taxpayers billions and avoid significant environmental harm. The Gateway Project is a $24 billion infrastructure plan to alleviate a critical bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor, an area of the country that accounts for 20 percent of national GDP.

As set forth in the report, when compared to an 18-month process to finish review and permitting, a three-year permitting timetable would increase taxpayer cost of the project by over $3 billion, and a further two-year delay would increase costs by almost $10 billion. Another two years would raise costs by more than $13 billion.

“Billions for Red Tape” proposes approval mechanisms to reduce the cost and enhance the environmental benefits of the project. It was written by Philip Howard and supplements an earlier Common Good report released in September 2015: “Two Years, Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals.”

Read the press release here.

Read the report here.

Common Good will host a discussion of the report this evening, May 9th, in New York City. It will feature remarks from Senator Cory Booker followed by a moderated panel. You can learn more about the event here.

Common Good is pushing for a radically simplified approach to infrastructure permitting, particularly for projects of such regional and national importance as Gateway. We would welcome your comments and suggestions on this crucial issue. You can e-mail them to commongood@commongood.org. Thank you.

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Common Good to Host Two Infrastructure Events in May

Common Good will host two events on improving infrastructure approvals in the coming weeks. The first, on Monday, May 9th in New York City, will center around the release of our new report: “Billions for Red Tape: Focusing on the Approval Process for the Gateway Rail Tunnel Project.” The event will feature remarks from Senator Cory Booker followed by a moderated panel. 

On Thursday, May 19th in Washington, DC, we will co-host an event with the Progressive Policy Institute and Covington & Burling LLP as part of Infrastructure Week (www.infrastructureweek.org). It will include remarks from Senator Tom Carper, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, current and former members of the Obama Administration, and experts from other countries. A full listing of confirmed panelists can be found on Common Good’s website here.

To RSVP for either event, please e-mail your name, position, affiliation, and contact information to Ruth Mary Giverin of Common Good at rmgiverin@commongood.org. Please contact Ruth with any questions as well. This invitation is transferable, but all attendees must register before the day of the event.

Event details:

Title:     Billions for Red Tape

Time:     Monday, May 9, 2016; 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM; cocktails and appetizers will be served.

Where:     The New York Times Building; 43rd Floor (offices of Covington & Burling LLP); 620 Eighth Avenue (between 40th and 41st Streets); New York, NY 10018 (A government-issued ID is required to pass through building security.)

Speakers

     Senator Cory Booker
     Patrick J. Foye, Executive Director,
          Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
     Philip K. Howard, Chair, Common Good
     Robert D. Yaro, President Emeritus, Regional Plan Association
          (moderator)

Description:     The Gateway Rail Tunnel Project is a $24 billion infrastructure plan to alleviate a critical bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor, an area of the country that accounts for 20 percent of national GDP. The purpose of the report and event is to outline the economic and environmental costs of different permitting timetables, and to propose approval mechanisms that will save taxpayers billions and avoid significant economic and environmental harm.

--- 

Title:     How Faster Infrastructure Approvals Can Get America Moving Again

Time:     Thursday, May 19, 2016; 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM, with lunch to follow; registration and breakfast begin at 8:15 AM. 

Where:     Covington & Burling LLP, 10th Floor, One CityCenter, 850 Tenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

Speakers

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)
Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-CT)
Jason S. Miller, White House National Economic Council

Angela F. Colamaria, White House Office of
     Management and Budget
Gary S. Guzy, Covington & Burling; formerly of CEQ and EPA
Philip K. Howard, Common Good
Fawn Johnson, Morning Consult
Deron Lovaas, Natural Resources Defense Council
Will Marshall, Progressive Policy Institute
Philip D. Moeller, Edison Electric Institute; formerly of the
     Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
John D. Porcari, Parsons Brinckerhoff; formerly of the
     US Department of Transportation
Sophie Shulman, US Department of Transportation
Prof. Dr. Andrea Versteyl, National Regulatory Control Council
     (Germany)

Description:     Even as the nation’s needs grow more acute, it takes longer and longer to win government approval to build modern infrastructure. Getting permits can take a decade or longer. Other countries manage to get projects up and running in less time. We are convening this discussion to build common understanding of how government reviews can combine rigorous public oversight with expeditious approvals of projects that can save money, create jobs, boost US productivity, achieve a greener footprint, and restore public confidence in the public sector.

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May 19 Forum: How Faster Infrastructure Approvals Can Get America Moving Again

Common Good, the Progressive Policy Institute, and Covington & Burling LLP invite you to attend a morning forum on expediting and improving regulatory reviews of infrastructure projects on Thursday, May 19th in Washington, DC.

The forum, which is part of Infrastructure Week (www.infrastructureweek.org), will include remarks from members of Congress and the Administration plus two panels of experts from industry, labor, government, and environmental protection.

Participants include:

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)
Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-CT)
Jason S. Miller, White House National Economic Council

Angela F. Colamaria, White House Office of
     Management and Budget
Gary S. Guzy, Covington & Burling; formerly of CEQ and EPA
Philip K. Howard, Common Good
Fawn Johnson, Morning Consult
Deron Lovaas, Natural Resources Defense Council
Will Marshall, Progressive Policy Institute
Philip D. Moeller, Edison Electric Institute; formerly of the
     Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
John D. Porcari, Parsons Brinckerhoff; formerly of the
     US Department of Transportation
Sophie Shulman, US Department of Transportation
Prof. Dr. Andrea Versteyl, National Regulatory Control Council
     (Germany)

Even as the nation’s needs grow more acute, it takes longer and longer to win government approval to build modern infrastructure. Getting permits can take a decade or longer. Other countries manage to get projects up and running in less time. We are convening this discussion to build common understanding of how government reviews can combine rigorous public oversight with expeditious approvals of projects that can save money, create jobs, boost US productivity, achieve a greener footprint, and restore public confidence in the public sector.

Event details:

Title:  How Faster Infrastructure Approvals Can Get America Moving Again

When:  Thursday, May 19, 2015; 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM, with lunch to follow. Registration and breakfast begin at 8:15 AM.

Where:  Covington & Burling LLP, 10th Floor, One CityCenter, 850 Tenth Street,  NW, Washington, DC 20001

To RSVP, please e-mail your name, position, affiliation, and contact information to Ruth Mary Giverin of Common Good at rmgiverin@commongood.org. Please contact Ruth with any questions as well. This invitation is transferable, but all attendees must register before the day of the event.

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May 9 Event: Billions for Red Tape

Common Good invites you to attend an end of the day discussion and reception on Monday, May 9th in New York City to discuss the release of our new report: “Billions for Red Tape: Focusing on the Approval Process for the Gateway Rail Tunnel Project.”

The event will feature remarks from Senator Cory Booker followed by a moderated panel.

Panelists:

Patrick J. Foye, Executive Director,
     Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Philip K. Howard, Chair, Common Good
Robert D. Yaro, President Emeritus, Regional Plan Association
     (moderator)

The Gateway Rail Tunnel Project is a $24 billion infrastructure plan to alleviate a critical bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor, an area of the country that accounts for 20 percent of national GDP. The purpose of the report and event is to outline the economic and environmental costs of different permitting timetables, and to propose approval mechanisms that will save taxpayers billions and avoid significant economic and environmental harm.

Event Details:

Title: Billions for Red Tape

When: Monday, May 9, 2016; 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM; cocktails and appetizers will be served.

Where:  The New York Times Building
43rd Floor (offices of Covington & Burling LLP)
620 Eighth Avenue (between 40th and 41st Streets)
New York, NY 10018
A government-issued ID is required to pass through building security.

To RSVP, please e-mail your name, position, affiliation, and contact information to Ruth Mary Giverin at rmgiverin@commongood.org. Please contact Ruth with any questions as well. This invitation is transferable, but all attendees must register before the day of the event.

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‘No Labels’ Adopts Common Good Policy Proposals

As part of their recently-released “Policy Playbook for America's Next President”—and in particular as a prescription to create 25 million new jobs over the next decade—the reform organization No Labels included Common Good policy proposals on streamlining infrastructure approvals and requiring judges to act as gatekeepers. The playbook provides:

Idea 27: Streamline Infrastructure Approvals

About the Policy

To accelerate the construction of important infrastructure, the federal government should designate officials to streamline the regulatory process for infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and highways.

Idea 32: Require Judges to Act as Gatekeepers

About the Policy

In order to restore fairness and reliability to the American justice system, give judges more responsibility to dismiss unreasonable lawsuit claims.

Common Good calls for empowering officials to expedite infrastructure reviews in our September 2015 report “Two Years, Not Ten Years.” Philip Howard has written on the effects of legal fear—and the role judges should play to combat it—for decades. (Read selected essays of his here and here.)

No Labels solicited these proposals from Common Good earlier this year. They then polled registered voters about them in February and March and found 75% and 81% support, respectively.

The policy playbook also calls for sunsets on regulations—which Common Good has long advocated for laws as well (see Philip Howard’s recent Wall Street Journal op-ed “The Crippling Hold of Old Law”)—and also raises the problems of fee-for-service healthcare, defensive medicine, and other issues of concern to Common Good. You can access all 60 proposals here.

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Las Vegas Review-Journal Endorses Call to Address Obsolete Law

In an April 6th editorial, the Las Vegas Review-Journal endorses Philip Howard’s April 2nd Wall Street Journal essay “The Crippling Hold of Old Law”: 

It’s tres chic these days to lament Washington partisanship along with the ensuing gridlock and congressional inertia. But such hand-wringing ignores the nation’s robust bureaucratic apparatus and the energetic regulatory state it administers.

In fact, writes Philip K. Howard in an April 2 commentary for The Wall Street Journal, “The buildup of federal law since World War II has been massive – about 15 fold.” And that, he posits, shackles American competitiveness, undermines infrastructure development and stifles entrepreneurialism. “Bad laws trap daily decisions in legal concrete and are largely responsible for the U.S. government’s clunky ineptitude.”

Mr. Howard, an attorney who came to prominence as author of the 1994 book “The Death of Common Sense,” which addressed the pitfalls of administrative and legal tyranny, makes a compelling case that many of the nation’s statutes are outdated or counterproductive and should be reconsidered. …

[P]erhaps the country – currently in the throes of a tumultuous election campaign dominated by voters fed up with broken government – now nears the point where the reality of not acting overwhelms the political inclination to avoid hard choices.

Click here to read the full editorial, “Beltway Sclerosis.”

Click here to read the “The Crippling Hold of Old Law.”

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Philip Howard in the Wall Street Journal: “The Crippling Hold of Old Law”

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Philip Howard explains how bringing American law up-to-date would transform society. An excerpt:

What’s broken is American law—a man-made mountain of outdated statutes and regulations. Bad laws trap daily decisions in legal concrete and are largely responsible for the U.S. government’s clunky ineptitude.

The villain here is Congress—a lazy institution that postures instead of performing its constitutional job to make sure that our laws actually work. All laws have unintended negative consequences, but Congress accepts old programs as if they were immortal. The buildup of federal law since World War II has been massive—about 15-fold. The failure of Congress to adapt old laws to new realities predictably causes public programs to fail in significant ways.

You can read the entire essay here.

A campaign is needed to channel voter anger towards a real solution—clearing out dense bureaucracy so teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs can focus on succeeding, and decrepit infrastructure rebuilt. Let us know if you’d like to help: commongood@commongood.org.

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Progressive Policy Institute Endorses Common Good’s Infrastructure Permitting Proposals

In an economic blueprint released yesterday, “Unleashing Innovation & Growth,” the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) endorsed Common Good’s diagnoses of why it takes so long to build infrastructure in America, as well as our proposals for reform. Discussing Common Good’s “Two Years, Not Ten Years” report, they write:

To streamline approvals, Common Good proposes that environmental reviews be limited to two years. Other advanced countries—notably Germany and Canada—likewise compress reviews without compromising environmental protection records that are at least as good as ours. Reducing approval time from eight to two years would reduce the costs of power projects by 30 percent, while also reaping efficiency and environmental gains, according to the report.

It also recommends that one agency have overriding authority to issue permits, and that a top EPA or White House official be put in charge of determining the proper scope of environmental review for any given project.

These sensible changes would enable the United States to dramatically pick up the pace of building modern, technologically advanced infrastructure. Approving public works projects with all deliberate speed would save costs and yield environmental benefits, while also helping America catch up with overseas competitors who have been investing heavily in infrastructure while ours has decayed.

Less tangible, but perhaps as important, would be the psychological lift we’d get from fixing a deeply flawed regulatory process. It would help dispel the ‘can’t do’ pall that hangs over Washington today, and boost public confidence in the federal government’s ability to take purposeful action against urgent national problems. And, as a practical matter, taxpayers will be more likely to support more spending on public works if they believe they’ll derive concrete benefits from them soon, not far off in the hazy future.

PPI’s full discussion of infrastructure permitting reform–from pp. 11-12 of Part 2 of “Unleashing Innovation & Growth”–reads:

Speed regulatory review of public works projects

Even as the nation’s needs grow more acute, it takes longer and longer to win government approval to build new infrastructure. Getting permits can take a decade or longer. Delays in starting construction add significantly to a project’s cost, by about five percent a year, according to the U.S. Transportation Department. Nor are all the costs of delay economic.

Lengthy approvals expose Americans to the safety hazards of unsafe bridges and roads, as well as leaks and flooding from ancient pipes and obsolete wastewater systems. Ironically, protracted environmental reviews harm the environment by slowing down the replacement of technologically primitive and inefficient infrastructure. ‘Transmission lines in America waste 6 percent of the electricity they transmit—the equivalent of 200 average-size coal-burning power plants,’ says Philip Howard in a Common Good report.

Why is infrastructure so entangled in red tape? A major problem is multiple and overlapping jurisdictions, as projects must get permits from a welter of agencies at different layers of government. In addition, environmental reviews in this country routinely get mired in litigation. And public hearings and meetings grind on endlessly as regulators attempt to hear from and accommodate every conceivable interest or ‘stakeholder’ that might be affected by a project.

In a well-functioning democracy, however, not every interested party can be or should be mollified; at some point the will of the majority should prevail. The fact is that there’s a vacuum of political authority at the top. In our balkanized bureaucracies, no agency or official has the power to settle disagreements among agencies, telescope the regulatory gauntlet or otherwise make the ultimate decision to move projects forward.

To streamline approvals, Common Good proposes that environmental reviews be limited to two years. Other advanced countries—notably Germany and Canada—likewise compress reviews without compromising environmental protection records that are at least as good as ours. Reducing approval time from eight to two years would reduce the costs of power projects by 30 percent, while also reaping efficiency and environmental gains, according to the report.

It also recommends that one agency have overriding authority to issue permits, and that a top EPA or White House official be put in charge of determining the proper scope of environmental review for any given project.

These sensible changes would enable the United States to dramatically pick up the pace of building modern, technologically advanced infrastructure. Approving public works projects with all deliberate speed would save costs and yield environmental benefits, while also helping America catch up with overseas competitors who have been investing heavily in infrastructure while ours has decayed.

Less tangible, but perhaps as important, would be the psychological lift we’d get from fixing a deeply flawed regulatory process. It would help dispel the ‘can’t do’ pall that hangs over Washington today, and boost public confidence in the federal government’s ability to take purposeful action against urgent national problems. And, as a practical matter, taxpayers will be more likely to support more spending on public works if they believe they’ll derive concrete benefits from them soon, not far off in the hazy future.

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Governor Kasich Cites The Death of Common Sense

Governor Kasich cited The Death of Common Sense in last night’s Republican presidential debate: “Can’t we have common sense in America? That's the way it used to be. And there was a book written called The Death of Common Sense. We need to bring it back.”

Governor Kasich, along with Secretary Clinton and other presidential candidates, has also adopted Common Good’s proposal to streamline infrastructure approvals from ten years to two years.

We plan to bring more Common Good issues to the fore this campaign season. First among them is that the problem of broken government will not be fixed merely by a change in leadership—public paralysis is structural. To fix broken government, law must be simplified into a framework for human responsibility, not legal micromanagement.

We look forward to your ideas and help in championing this cause.

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