Energy security and permitting reform have been top of mind on Capitol Hill. At the Greater North Dakota Chamber event last month, Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) expressed his optimism that permitting reform would be included in debt ceiling negotiations. With the Senate passing the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) last night, the path to reasonable energy permitting reform now sits on the President’s desk.
During the debt ceiling negotiations, aspects of permitting reform bills that have been introduced over the last year were included in the final bill. Of note is the modernization of the decades old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a law that directs environmental review processes for permitting projects. The revisions to NEPA include a one-year time limit on environmental reviews and a two-year limit on environmental impact statements. Missing, however, are substantive reforms to the judicial reviews of energy infrastructure projects that have been utilized in delay-to-die tactics by environmentalist groups.
The changes to NEPA’s environmental review processes is a significant step in getting American energy security back on track. The FRA also included the fast-tracking of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a priority of Senator Joe Manchin’s that has been long delayed by the permitting process. While it is encouraging that the project will move forward, other pipeline and infrastructure projects should have received the same level of support. Pipelines are the safest and most efficient form of transporting the energy resources necessary for human flourishing when compared to truck and rail. All pipeline projects, after the appropriate steps in the permitting process, should be a priority as we seek to secure our energy future.