Despite its importance as a tool for protecting air and water quality, and for mitigating impacts to protected species and ecosystems, the environmental permitting process is widely recognized to be inefficient and marked by delays. This article draws on a literature review and interviews with permitting practitioners to identify factors that contribute to delayed permit decisions. The sociopolitical context, projects that are complex or use novel technology, a fragmented and bureaucratic regulatory regime, serial permit applications and reviews, and applicant and permitting agency knowledge and resources each contribute to permitting inefficiency when they foster uncertainty, increase transaction costs, and allow divergent interests to multiply, yet remain unresolved. We then use the interviews to consider the potential of a collaborative dialogue between permitting agencies and applicants to mitigate these challenges, and argue that collaboration is well positioned to lessen permitting inefficiency.
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