Last month, I attended a Breakthrough Institute conference in Middleburg, Virginia. You may have heard of BTI, they promote “ecomodernism.” More on some of their ideas later.
What I like about them is that they are fans of technical solutions to environmental problems- I don’t always agree with them, but they have interesting and unique albeit Coastal, views of the world. Plus, where else can you be at a conference with people from the fusion community, as in energy, not dining. And they gave me a geographic diversity scholarship to attend, as I am neither from a Coast, nor a member of any elite.
Anyway, permitting reform was on their agenda. “Permitting reform” is a current term used to talk about removing unnecessary obstacles to building needed infrastructure. The difficulty, as we know, is agreeing on what is “unnecessary” and what is “needed.”
It was fascinating to see the perspectives of people way outside our world. Below is the information about this session and here is a link to the video.
As the nation’s halting attempts to build high-speed rail, nuclear power plants, high-voltage transmission lines, and solar and wind farms reveal, the obstacles to decarbonization stem less from the availability of low-carbon technology than from the capacity for siting, permitting, and building the necessary infrastructure. High-level proposals to address this problem have come from “supply-side progressivism,” “state-capacity libertarianism,” neoliberalism, and beyond. This panel will feature a variety of ideological perspectives on the policy and coalitional imperatives to be sorted out before any such supply-side agenda can be effectively pursued.
Eli Dourado, Senior Research Fellow, Center for Growth and Opportunity, Utah State University
Marcela Mulholland, Political Director, Data for Progress
Jeremiah Johnson, Policy Director, The Neoliberal Project
Jared DeWese, Deputy Director for Communications, Third Way Energy
From the Forest Service historical NEPA perspective, it was fascinating to listen to speakers talk about NEPA. Some of Eli Dourado’s comments (the libertarian), even reminded me of Sally Fairfax’s article in Science in 1978. He suggested , developing more substantive environmental statutes and reducing the emphasis on NEPA. He also suggested getting rid of NEPA but he is a libertarian..
However, as we know ESA can also be used to slow down or stop projects, so I don’t think it’s that simple.
I thought the most interesting talk was given by Marcela Mulholland, the Political Director of Data for Progress, a progressive polling group.
Her presentation (20:10 ) was fun..
Here she talks some (other) progressives’ views (48:48) “more staffing, no other changes are necessary,” and (51:30) changing agency culture. I think she has a point but that is indeed difficult.
1:04 and on .. there’s a discussion how to get community input without slowing things down too much.
And in the Q&A, there’s even a comment about NEPA being a “decision-making tool”, which may remind FS folks of the Decision Protocol and other efforts. I suggested that policy solutions involve agency NEPA practitioners as sources of information..
As a result, attendees asked for a summary of what we have learned. I think “there’s too much!” say the results of the EADM workshops, and “there’s too little”.. where out there might be a 20 page history of agency efforts, at least from Process Predicament on, what was tried and how it worked. So I am stuck and would like to respond to his question. Does anyone have any suggestions?