Analysis by Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley
Given that we have a highly divided and partisan Congress and election season is quickly coming at us, conventional wisdom would usually be that permitting reform legislation faces long odds of passing in the next six months. However, significant movement is happening and while these types of large legislative actions are hard to handicap, it certainly appears there is at least better than a 50/50 chance that permitting reform does come together in some fashion this Congress. Voices on both sides of the aisle and across many sectors of industry are consistently urging Congress to take action on permitting reform before time runs out.
Last week saw significant action in the Senate on the issue. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, has been soliciting support for his recently introduced permitting package that would establish time limits for environmental reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This bill is similar to the package he introduced last Congress which ultimately failed to garner enough bipartisan support to make it over the finish line.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced their own bills last Thursday. Those bills propose changes similar to what Sen. Manchin’s legislation would require, including the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia. This pipeline is critical to help increase capacity to move gas out of the Marcellus region. It is also seen as potentially critical to Sen. Manchin and his political future, as he sits in what will likely be a contested Senate seat in 2024 and his polling in West Virginia does not indicate he will be a sure thing for reelection.
Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) said he is writing his own bill, and Reps. Mike Levin, (D-CA-49) and Sean Casten (D-IL-6) say they’ll have a draft bill too, focusing on electric transmission lines.
All of this action occurs as House Republicans passed their own package back in March to streamline permitting laws. Portions of that bill, including the permitting changes, were also included in the Republican-passed House debt-limit bill. The debt-limit deal has still not yet been reached between the House and Democratic leadership in the Senate and the White House, so it remains unclear if any of these provisions will ultimately make it into the final deal. Negotiations continue on however, with the deadline currently anticipated to be reached on June 1.
Hill watchers think that permitting reform tied to the debt limit is less likely and it may continue to develop as a standalone package with its best chances of being added to a larger must-pass legislation like NDAA or something else later in the year.
White House Announces Permitting Reform Priorities
John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, outlined the White House priorities on permitting reform yesterday.
Tim Tarpley, Energy Workforce President, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.