So it appears that there are at least three policy positions surrounding decarbonization of energy. Now remember that decarbonization is an environmental goal. But many different kinds of decarbonizing projects have environmental impacts (think powerlines, wind turbines, solar arrays, rare metals and uranium mining). Some people think we must achieve all kinds of targets within 10 years, or the planet is kaput. Others look at our track record in the US and say, we can’t get this stuff built in 10 years with current procedures. If this is an emergency, we should invoke emergency procedures.
So we have some people … 1) decarbonization will work without regulatory reform, agencies should just hire more folks (more gas same brake, in my terminology);
2) we want regulatory reform for some projects (wind and solar) and not for others (oil and gas);
3) Let’s get regulatory reform for key energy projects, including oil and gas (this is the Manchin point of view).
These debates are related to our forest world via energy projects sited on FS and BLM land, and whether proposed reforms would make sense for other types of forest projects.
In this Salt Lake City Tribune article:
Although the text of the bill has not been made public, a one-page memo on Manchin’s website indicates it could include significant reforms to NEPA.
Over 650 environmental groups from across the country are opposing the bill, which they fear will amount to a giveaway to the fossil fuel industry. In a letter to Congressional leaders, the groups wrote that the “legislative language that was clearly drafted in consultation with the American Petroleum Institute (API),” a reference to a watermark on a leaked memo with the letters API.
The prospect of altering bedrock environmental law and permitting processes has divided the Democratic caucus. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, announced his opposition to attaching the bill to must-pass spending legislation, and over 70 members of the House of Representatives have signed a similar letter.
In a new policy paper published this week, Pleune referenced the Manchin deal and argued that weakening environmental protections in the name of expediency would be a mistake.
“Accepting unfettered environmental degradation in exchange for clean energy would achieve short-term gains in exchange for long-term pain,” she wrote. “The unrelenting challenges caused by climate change provide an almost daily reminder that downplaying environmental risks does not make them go away.”
Do the ideas in the memo seem like “unfettered environmental degradation” to you? Or do you think they are unnecessary, or won’t work to speed things up? What has been your own experience, and would any of these help? Let’s move past the rhetoric to the reality and practicality.
Energy Permitting Provisions
*Designate and prioritize projects of strategic national importance.
Direct the President to designate and periodically update a list of at least 25 high-priority energy
infrastructure projects and prioritize permitting for these projects.
Require a balanced list of project types, including: critical minerals, nuclear, hydrogen, fossil fuels, electric transmission, renewables, and carbon capture, sequestration, storage, and removal.
Criteria for selecting designated projects includes: reducing consumer energy costs, improving energy reliability, decarbonization potential, and promoting energy trade with our allies.
*Set maximum timelines for permitting reviews, including two years for NEPA reviews for major
projects and one year for lower-impact projects.
Require a single inter-agency environmental review document and concurrent agency review processes.
Designate a lead agency to coordinate inter-agency review.
Expand eligibility for the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC) streamlining and transparency programs to ensure smaller energy projects, critical minerals and mining, and other key programs can benefit from FPISC. Provide FPISC funds to accelerate permitting.
Improve the process for developing categorical exclusions under NEPA.
*Improve Section 401 of the Clean Water Act by incorporating improvements from both the Trump
and Biden administrations.
Require one of four final actions within one year of certification requests: grant, grant with conditions, deny, or waive certification.
Clarify that the basis of review is water quality impacts from the permitted activity, based on federal, State, and Tribal standards.
Require certification applications to include available information on potential water quality impacts.
Prohibit State or Tribal agencies from requesting project applicants to withdraw applications to stop/pause/restart the certification clock.
Require States and Tribes to publish clear requirements for water quality certification requests, or else default to federal requirements.
*Address excessive litigation delays.
Set statute of limitations for court challenges.
Require that if a federal court remands or vacates a permit for energy infrastructure, the court must set and enforce a reasonable schedule and deadline, not to exceed 180 days, for the agency to act on remand.
Require random assignment of judges for all federal circuit courts.
* Clarify FERC jurisdiction regarding the regulation of interstate hydrogen pipeline, storage, import, and export facilities.
*Enhance federal government permitting authority for interstate electric transmission facilities that have been determined by the Secretary of Energy to be in the national interest.
Replace DOE’s national interest electric transmission corridor process with a national interest determination by the Secretary of Energy that allows FERC to issue a construction permit.
Require FERC to ensure costs for transmission projects are allocated to customers that benefit.
Allow FERC to approve payments from utilities to jurisdictions impacted by a transmission project.
*Complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Require the relevant agencies to take all necessary actions to
permit the construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and give the DC Circuit jurisdiction
over any further litigation.