What is permitting reform? The critical energy provision buried in debt-ceiling negotiations
Tucked into high-stakes debt ceiling negotiations is a critical energy provision that Democrats and Republicans in Washington both want – at least in theory.
Energy permitting reform, which aims to cut down the time it takes for new projects to get approved, could be one of the few bipartisan measures to emerge from a debt limit deal. Or it could be left on the cutting room floor.
Here’s what to know.
What is energy permitting?
Energy permitting may sound dry, but it’s an important and necessary step for any plan that intends to bring new sources of energy to our homes and businesses. It’s the shorthand term for all the environmental and technical approvals needed for a major energy project like a wind farm, massive solar array, electrical transmission line, or gas pipeline.
Essentially, it’s the key hurdle to getting new energy projects built in the United States.
In the US, this process is particularly complex because there are multiple layers of government that project developers need to answer to: federal, state and local. For the federal government alone, there are multiple agencies that need to sign off on big energy projects – creating multiple hurdles and dragging out the time before a project can be constructed.
What are the environmental concerns?
Keeping the National Environmental Policy Act intact emerged as a top concern for many Democrats, who are afraid Republicans will seize permitting reform as an opportunity to gut the federal government’s cornerstone environmental review process.
NEPA is a law that requires federal agencies to quantify the environmental impact of their actions and consider options that would be less damaging. It applies whenever a project crosses federal lands or could impact air or water quality regulated by the Clean Air Act.
Clawing it back could mean less oversight for projects that can pollute waterways or air – whether they are related to fossil fuels or the byproducts of mining for critical minerals for electric vehicles.
“I’m concerned that we’re going to give a bunch of big giveaways to the fossil fuel industry and take major bites out of bedrock environmental laws that will have long-term negative consequences,” Rep. Jared Huffman of California, a Democrat, told CNN. “There’s reason for grave concern if you care about climate and the environment.”
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By: Ella Nilsen
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