December 8, 2022
  • December 8, 2022

These three problems prevent the reform of energy permits

By on November 22, 2022 0

The only thing standing between us and our affordable, clean energy future is a completely broken permitting process, and the way out of the congressional deadlock is to resolve three controversies that helped delay legislative action earlier this year. .

Specifically, pushing permit reform through the lame session of Congress requires resolving controversies over how much authority to give the federal government to lay new power lines and allocate costs among recipients, what types of projects should be covered and whether the reforms will strengthen or weaken environmental justice.

Allowing reform is important for at least two reasons. First, it would allow Republicans and Democrats to achieve some of their longstanding energy policy goals, including energy accessibility and reliability. Second, it would allow the nation to make meaningful progress on climate change by accelerating clean energy projects.

Essentially, enabling reform is the missing piece, the sine qua non, of our national energy policy.

Over the past two years, policymakers have enacted four major laws to spur clean energy technologies by authorizing new programs and policies and providing hundreds of billions of dollars to fund new projects. If these four bills – the bipartisan 2020 energy law2021 bipartisan infrastructure law2022 bipartisan CHIPS and scientific law and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act – realizing their potential, they would set the nation on a path to greater energy independence and make significant progress towards net zero emissions by 2050.

What stands in the way? An outdated permitting process that delays projects for years, increases costs for businesses and households, compromises the reliability and affordability of our energy, threatens national security, and limits economic growth and competitiveness.

For decades, Republicans (and some Democrats) have pushed for reform, arguing that the process creates unnecessary delays and imposes unnecessary costs on traditional energy projects. Some Democrats hailed the delays in worry that such projects hinder efforts to combat climate change.

Now, enabling reform is something both sides can support. Indeed, the fight against climate change is less about blocking traditional energy projects and more about facilitating clean energy projects – everything from solar and wind to new power lines, advanced nuclear, gas low-carbon natural gas, geothermal energy, new facilities to capture, move and store carbon dioxide. So whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, and whether you care about energy costs, energy independence, energy innovation, or greenhouse gas emissions, permit reform helps you achieve your goals.

Meaning. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Shelley Moore Capito (RW.Va.), senior Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, have presented reform bills which essentially overlap. Each would shorten the time federal agencies have to review projects, cover forms of energy such as critical minerals, nuclear, hydrogen, fossil fuels, electric transmission, renewables and capture, sequestration , carbon storage and removal and would provide for exclusions from review for certain well-understood categories of projects to accelerate the creation of new infrastructure while reducing costs. Equally important, both senators expressed interest in negotiating a compromise measure.

Based on how efforts to peg permission reform into a must-have spending measure crumbled earlier this fall, however, negotiators must resolve three controversies if they hope to pass a final bill.

  • First, the fate of power transmission lines. What authority should the federal government have to establish new lines and distribute the costs among the beneficiaries? Greater federal authority over interstate lines makes sense, but some lawmakers want to leave power in the hands of states and localities. Federal authority, however, will prove important in securing the votes of those most committed to fighting climate change, as current transmission delays threaten to cut the emissions benefits of the Cut Inflation Act by 80%. The way forward is to restrict this new federal authority to major interstate high voltage lines only.
  • Second, the scope of the reform authorization. While the Manchin and Capito proposals take a comprehensive approach, others want to exclude fossil fuel projects. The fact is, however, that Manchin and Republican lawmakers will demand all of the above license enhancements. Moreover, those who oppose fossil fuel projects need not worry – 77% of new electricity generation last year came from wind and solar alone, and that’s before the new clean energy incentives of the Cut Inflation Act take effect. The market has already decided: the nation will decarbonize; the only question is how fast.
  • Third, the status of environmental justice. Does faster authorization mean less input from local communities affected by new projects? Clean energy projects have the potential to help communities by creating jobs, stimulating economic growth, reducing pollution and improving quality of life. This is why the authorization of the reform should support the efforts to involve the communities from the beginning of the process in order to obtain their support.

Through four major bills, policymakers have unleashed unprecedented funding for energy innovation. Now they need to remove the barriers to using that money to achieve their energy goals.

Xan Fishman is director of energy policy and carbon management at the Bipartisan Policy Center.