Right now, the development of energy projects of any kind takes years because of the hundreds of permitting hurdles that hold up projects in a long and complex process. In June, the Fiscal Responsibility Act took a step forward in reforming the permitting system by establishing time limits for environmental reviews and providing accountability for missed deadlines. However, the Biden administration recently issued proposals that could overwrite this progress by adding more red tape to an already difficult process.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced additional reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that aim to expedite permitting for renewable energy projects and infrastructure. Under the proposed rule, agencies would be allowed to flag certain projects as not having a significant impact on the environment, speeding up their processes while leaving others in the dust.
The Biden administration’s NEPA proposal advances an inefficient permitting scheme and provides yet another roadblock to energy projects in the U.S The reforms reverse important provisions of a 2020 NEPA rule that reigned in extreme public comment rules that were setting back project approvals and increasing red tape. The 2020 changes brought commons sense into the public comment process by eliminating the ability to use public comment to delay. By changing these rules again, we are codifying “environmental justice” – something that Congress did not intend or include in the Act. This new Biden proposal perpetuates an inefficient system, and provides yet another roadblock to energy projects in the U.S.
The Biden administration’s strategy with this proposal is to hamstring traditional oil and gas projects and artificially push green energy projects ahead – effectively codifying their misguided “environmental justice” priorities into law without approval from congress This tactic is similar to the administration’s recent policies on electric vehicles. Biden’s EPA has proposed vehicle emissions standards so tough that they are a de facto EV mandate.
These latest reforms to NEPA adopt a similar strategy to rush the transition to renewable energy, but they would only succeed in burdening consumers through higher prices and jeopardizing energy reliability.
Time and time again, the Biden administration tip toes around the actual problem under the guise of transitioning to clean energy, catering to the environmental lobby and liberal supporters. With our current infrastructure, we cannot rely solely on renewables to meet our energy needs. We’ve seen states like California try and rush the implementation of renewables, which resulted in them falling back on traditional fuel sources to fill energy gaps.
This is not just a national issue. We’ve seen other countries preemptively transition to renewable energy dependency like Germany, which left its energy security vulnerable in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Germany enforced broad mandates for green technologies that placed a heavy economic burden on its citizens and facilitated a reliance on foreign energy. The war in Europe quickly illustrated the shortcomings of relying on intermittent renewable energy sources, as well as hostile actors, plunging Germany, and Europe, into a volatile energy crisis.
The U.S. has stepped up to support our ally, fortifying our relationship and providing affordable and dependable energy to Germany for years to come. In 2023, the U.S. has entered significant long-term agreements to supply LNG to Germany, which has further positioned our nation to emerge as a global leader in energy production. Not only does this help our allies but it also boosts our national and local economies. Without the streamlined ability to build more energy infrastructure projects in a timely manner, the U.S. cannot continue to expand support for our allies.
In spite of our current permitting process, the oil and gas industry employs over 1 million hard-working Americans and contributes $1.7 trillion to our national GDP. The oil and gas industry provides many high-paying dependable jobs, while generating much needed tax revenue for state and local economies that support education, healthcare and law enforcement. If this is what the oil and gas industry is providing our country right now, you can only imagine the possibilities that a streamlined process and an increase in energy projects can provide our country. The current permitting process is holding hostage the potential of American innovation and is allowing for citizens to miss opportunities and economic benefits of a boosted energy industry.
It is imperative that the Biden administration fully address the inefficiencies of the current permitting process, as well as the shortfalls of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, to ensure a strong energy sector for years to come. Instead of picking winners and losers and giving short cuts to certain energy projects, the Biden Administration should apply thorough but efficient reviews to all projects.
Patrice Douglas is an attorney and former chairman of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.