The only thing standing between us and our affordable, clean energy future is a completely broken permitting system and the way to break the congressional gridlock lies in resolving three controversies that helped delay legislation earlier this year.
In particular, pushing for reform during Congress’ lame-duck session requires resolving the controversy over how much authority to give the federal government to lay new transmission lines and share costs among beneficiaries, what types of projects should be covered and whether reform will strengthen or weaken justice. of the environment.
Consent renewal is important for at least two reasons. First, it would enable Republicans and Democrats to achieve some of their long-term energy policy goals, including energy affordability and reliability. Second, it would enable the nation to make significant progress on climate change by accelerating clean energy projects.
In fact, allowing reform is the sine qua non, the sine qua non, of our national energy policy.
Over the past two years, policymakers have enacted four key laws to promote clean energy technology by authorizing new programs and policies and providing hundreds of billions of dollars to support new projects. If those four bills — the bipartisan Energy Act of 2020, the bipartisan infrastructure bill of 2021, the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 — pass their powers, they will position the nation for greater energy independence and make progress toward net-zero emissions by 2050.
What stands in the way? An outdated permitting process that delays projects for years, raises costs for businesses and households, jeopardizes our energy reliability and affordability, threatens national security and reduces economic growth and competitiveness.
For decades, Republicans (and some Democrats) have pushed for reform, arguing that the program creates unnecessary delays and imposes unnecessary costs on traditional energy projects. Some Democrats welcomed the delay because of concerns that such projects set back efforts to address climate change.
Now, allowing reform is a win-win situation for both parties. That’s because tackling climate change is less about preventing traditional energy projects and more about facilitating clean energy projects – everything from solar and wind to new power lines, to advanced nuclear, to carbon-free natural gas, to geothermal, to new catchment areas, delivery and storage. carbon dioxide. So, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, and whether you care about energy costs, energy independence, renewable energy or green emissions, allowing reform helps you achieve your goals.
Sens. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Shelley Moore Capito (RW.Va.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, have introduced various reform bills that have passed. in advanced ways. Each will reduce the time for federal agencies to review projects, cover energy options such as fossil fuels, nuclear, hydrogen, fossil fuels, electricity transmission, renewables and carbon capture, sequestration, storage and disposal and provide exclusions from reviewing other well-understood project types speeding up new infrastructure while reducing costs. Just as importantly, both senates have expressed interest in negotiating a relief measure.
Based on how efforts to attach reform approval to a spending measure that must pass earlier this fall fell through, however, negotiators must resolve three issues if they hope to pass a final bill.
- First, the future of power lines. How much power should the federal government have to set new lines and allocate costs among beneficiaries? Greater federal authority over central lines makes sense, but some lawmakers want to leave power in the hands of states and localities. Federal authority, however, will appear important to protect the votes of those who are most committed to dealing with climate change, because the delay in the current delivery threatens to reduce the benefits of the release of the Inflation Act by 80 percent. The way forward is to limit that new federal power to only large, high-voltage, medium-sized lines.
- Second, the limit of allowing updates. While Manchin and Capito’s proposals take all of the above, others want to exclude fossil fuel projects. The reality is, however, that both Manchin and Republican lawmakers will require all of the above to be approved. Otherwise, those opposed to fossil fuel projects needn’t worry — 77 percent of new electricity generation last year came solely from wind and solar, and that’s before any of the Clean Energy Reduction Act’s new incentives go into effect. The market has already decided: The nation will emit carbon; the only question is how fast.
- Third, the nature of environmental justice. Will quick approval mean less input from local communities affected by new projects? Clean energy projects have the potential to help communities by creating jobs, promoting economic growth, reducing pollution and improving quality of life. That is why enabling reforms should support efforts to involve the public early in the process to secure their support.
With four major bills, policymakers have released unprecedented funding for energy innovation. Now, they need to remove obstacles to using that money to achieve their energy-related goals.
Xan Fishman is director of energy policy and carbon management at the Bipartisan Policy Center.