EARL BAKER: Permitting reform is vital for state’s energy future

Reining in out-of-control energy costs has been an issue at the top of the list of important goals of Pennsylvanians for years now. From the high price of gas at the pump to the increased cost of natural gas and residential heating oil, citizens across the Keystone state have been patiently waiting for a reprieve from high energy prices. Many are now asking how do we get there?

A renewed interest in permitting reform in Washington indicates that Congress might finally be ready to take this important step to help accomplish this goal. Better yet, there appears to be political appetite on both sides of the aisle and from the White House to accomplish such reforms and to gain a key policy and political win. Streamlining the process should be the primary goal.

In December, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers, the Republican Chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee told reporters that “there’s a growing recognition across the ideological spectrum that we need to address permitting in the United States of America.” Similarly, Senator Joe Manchin, the Democratic Chair of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources committee recently reiterated his long-standing support for permitting reform noting that “everyone has come to agreement that you got to have permitting.” And John Podesta, the White House Senior Advisor for clean energy implementation has said of permitting reform that “there’s plenty that we can do and must do federally.”

Permitting reform would assist in bringing more energy from a variety forms and fuel sources to market. Whether that’s through new transmission lines to carry more electricity generated by renewables such as wind and solar or through new pipelines to help carry more of the fossil fuels we use to power our cars and heat our homes, clearing the way to bring more energy to market will help to ease the inflationary pressures we are currently all are facing.

Over the last few years such energy projects have continued to accumulate in the queue for approval due to issues with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), which governs the permitting approval process for energy projects. While NEPA provides important safeguards to ensure federal agencies carefully consider environmental impacts of new infrastructure projects, the NEPA process has become a mess of bureaucratic red tape. Duplicative regulations, protracted timelines, inadequate means of collecting information, and inconsistent rules across agencies have made it difficult and, in some cases, impossible to deliver on new infrastructure projects.

Updating NEPA would be a great first step in realizing meaningful permitting reform and would help bring the law back to its intended purpose by allowing for increased infrastructure investment while assuring sound environmental reviews. It is also hard to understate how impactful this could be for Pennsylvanians.

Streamlining the permitting process in Pennsylvania, with its multitude of energy extraction and transportation projects would be transformative for local economies and add to the more than 258,000 energy jobs that already exist in the state. Meanwhile, increased revenues in excess of the hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and fees currently paid by the energy industry every year to the state, could allow for tax relief or provide legislators in Harrisburg with funds to reinvest in other important initiatives. And permitting reform, in addition to clearing the way for energy projects in Pennsylvania, could also help reduce delays and streamline approvals for other new and critical infrastructure projects in the state such as road extensions, bridge replacements, and airport developments.

Our nation is in dire need of relief from high energy prices and permitting reform is an important first step that Republicans and Democrats in Congress and President Biden must work on cooperatively. The United States possesses the means to lower prices and provide for our domestic energy needs, but obstacles stand in the way. Leaders in Washington need to come together to identify and pass measures that will increase domestic energy production of all kinds and ensure that it can be efficiently brought to market. The current outdated and inefficient permitting process is currently a critical obstacle that stands in the way of accomplishing this goal. But with a little political will on both sides of the aisle, we can realize a big win for not just the state of Pennsylvania but the whole country.

Author: Earl Baker
Publication: Daily Local News
Scroll to Top