A rigorous permitting and approval process for energy infrastructure is the lynchpin of successful American energy development. Local, state, and federal regulators carefully review proposed projects and issue permits only after ensuring such projects will not impact the surrounding environment or pose other risks.
But a longstanding issue in the United States has been the concerning length of time it often takes for critical energy infrastructure projects to receive the approval necessary to begin construction. Even after all environmental and safety standards have been met or exceeded by developers, the permitting process is often mired with delays and challenges from activists and state administrations seeking to halt the use of fossil fuels. Some states have resorted to using their authority under the Clean Water Act Section 401 to block energy infrastructure projects for reasons unrelated to water quality. Such challenges can delay the permitting process for years – with American consumers paying the price.
Fortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday issued a final rule that will further streamline the construction of critical energy infrastructure projects. The rule increases the transparency and efficiency of the Clean Water Act Section 401 certification process in order to facilitate the timely review of projects while continuing to ensure that Americans have clean water for both drinking and recreation.
The final rule follows an executive order signed by President Trump last April seeking to accelerate and promote the construction of natural gas and oil pipelines and other key infrastructure.
Craig Stevens, spokesman for the GAIN Coalition, expressed support for the new rule:
“GAIN applauds the EPA for this final rule and for its ongoing efforts to promote energy infrastructure development while continuing to protect our nation’s land, air quality, and waterways. It is essential that the federal government ensure a straightforward permitting and approval process that provides developers with regulatory consistency and clear guidelines. Unfortunately, a number of states have blocked the construction of much-needed energy infrastructure projects using their authority under Section 401 – despite meeting the necessary requirements. These objections, however, have often been based in an ideological opposition to the use of fossil fuels rather than legitimate concerns regarding the state’s waterways. This newly enacted rule sends a strong message that environmental stewardship and responsible infrastructure investment are not mutually exclusive.”
The EPA’s new rule is a step in the right direction for our nation’s energy infrastructure network. With this new guidance, hopefully long overdue infrastructure development in this country will face a more straightforward and clarified regulatory timeline, which will ultimately provide benefit to all Americans.