Secretary's Order Encourages Mitigation Efficiency and Predictability for Infrastructure Development Projects on Federal Lands

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On October 31, 2013, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell issued Order No. 3330 to establish a Department-wide mitigation strategy that focuses on mitigation opportunities at the landscape level.  Order No. 3330 is part of a larger effort required by President Obama’s May 17, 2013 Memorandum for all federal agencies to cut the aggregate timelines for major infrastructure projects in half by modernizing federal infrastructure review and permitting policies, promoting interagency coordination and planning, and enhancing both efficiency and predictability for project applicants.  

Order No. 3330 is intended to encourage early integration of mitigation measures in project design and planning, a landscape-scale approach to conservation, transparency and consistency of mitigation measures, and recognition of the effects of climate change on the environment. Order No. 3330 is aimed at increasing permit efficiencies and financial predictability for developers while improving state and federal regulatory agencies’ ability to plan for long term and large-scale conservation investments.

The Order’s emphasis on landscape-scale mitigation is intended to allow agencies to more efficiently allocate mitigation resources to larger, previously identified conservation projects, rather than identifying and funding smaller mitigation projects on a piecemeal basis, as has been done historically in the past. David Hayes, former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior, lauds this approach in his recent op-ed and encourages both developers and environmentalists to support it.

Order No. 3330 further directs the Department’s Energy and Climate Change Task Force (Task Force) to devise a strategy to implement these improvements to the Department’s mitigation policies. The Task Force was created by Order No. 3285, which establishes renewable energy development as a departmental priority. It includes all Assistant Secretaries and Heads of Bureaus of the Department of Interior, and will now be chaired by the Deputy Secretary. Order No. 3330 charges the Task Force with developing a science-based mitigation strategy to develop new policies, practices and potential regulatory changes to offset development impacts through various measures, including landscape-scale and regional planning, banking, and in-lieu fees across all types of infrastructure development projects. As part of this effort, the Task Force will undertake a review of existing mitigation policies and partnership programs, seek input from other regulatory agencies, and attempt to harmonize existing policies to minimize redundancy. The Task Force will report its findings, recommendations and a timeline for implementation to the Secretary within 90 days of the effective date of Order No. 3330. Stay tuned!