If U.S. wants most advanced energy economy, some serious energy-permitting reform a must

Over the past two years, Congress has passed several much-needed laws and allocated over a trillion dollars to grow and update infrastructure and clean energy technology in the United States to combat climate change and lower consumer energy costs. However, these projects cannot become a reality under the current regulatory structure, which takes several years just to approve single projects.

Policymakers on both sides of the aisle have an interest in addressing this issue, and Congress recently enacted a first-pass set of permitting reforms as part of an agreement to raise the debt ceiling. While the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) supported this legislation, it doesn’t go far enough — and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy agree. Additional reform is needed to create ambitious changes required to fully modernize the outdated American regulatory process and unleash clean energy deployment that can outcompete the rest of the world.

Today [Jul. 20, 2023], PPI released a new report titled “Building the World’s Most Advanced Energy Economy: A More Ambitious Approach to American Energy Permitting Reform.” Report authors Elan Sykes, Energy Policy Analyst, and Paul Bledsoe, Strategic Advisor, propose a fundamental change to the permitting process by utilizing new analytics, scoping, and mapping technologies that can provide federal agencies and regulators the tools they need to comprehensively approve large batches of projects together, instead of individually reviewing projects.

“The scale and pace of deployment needed for the clean energy transition must be met with an equally ambitious update to America’s environmental regulations. After half a century operating under restrictions designed without climate change in mind, growing ever more burdensome, we believe that Congress must aim higher than modest change around the edges,” said Elan Sykes, Energy Policy Analyst at PPI. “We must use modern technology to revamp our entire approach and ask federal agencies to review problems rather than projects, giving transparency to developers and communities alike and bringing countless economic and environmental benefits to households across the country.”

“Recent modest permitting reforms included in the June budget deal were important, but they will not bring about the transformative policy changes needed to quickly permit and build the thousands of energy projects currently pending approval,” said Paul Bledsoe, Strategic Advisor at PPI. “The reforms proposed in the report have the opportunity to rapidly unleash new projects, helping to drive economic growth and reduce energy costs which are key components of inflation. We look forward to working with both parties in Congress on this crucial economic and environmental opportunity.”

The report builds on existing policy recommendations, but goes further by emphasizing moving away from single-project reviews and individual permits to a more systematic approach of programmatic reviews and general permits. Providing clear and transparent rules for by-right approval is the only way to meet the scale of clean energy deployment at the pace the United States needs to compete globally and lower emissions.

Source: “Building the World’s Most Advanced Energy Economy: A More Ambitious Approach to American Energy Permitting Reform,” Jul. 20, 2023 Progressive Policy Institute press release.

Corresponding, connected home-page-featured image: Rtracey via Wikimedia Commons

3 thoughts on “If U.S. wants most advanced energy economy, some serious energy-permitting reform a must”

  1. It’s high time that the powers to be take the right steps to affect change. As time passes, it’s the younger generation who will have to deal with our screw ups, shoveling up the garbage we created.

  2. This shows a common misunderstanding in energy/environmental permitting.

    The organizations seeking the permits either dont hire staff qualified to do the work, or they chose to do it poorly and consequently are required to redo the analyses multiple times. Then the delay is blamed on the regulations, or the permitor agency.

    • Thank you for commenting.

      What this sounds like is a case of not having enough qualified permitting personnel to go around. So, basically it’s a quantity-versus-quality trade-off to put it bluntly.

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