Today, President Biden signed the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), increasing the federal debt limit after weeks of deliberation and discussion. During negotiations, Democrats and Republicans came to agreements on numerous topics, including spending limits, work requirements, and energy. Included in the Fiscal Responsibility Act are important reforms to our onerous infrastructure permitting process that has notably hampered energy projects across the nation.
The bill addresses permitting by establishing a two-year time limit on “Environmental Impact Statements,” as well as a one-year limit on “Environmental Assessments” by federal agencies. Similarly, the FRA combines the review process for multi-agency projects under a single lead organization and expands categorical exclusions to exempt certain types of projects that federal agencies have deduced do not significantly affect the environment from parts of the review process.
Below is a statement that can be attributed to me, Craig Stevens, spokesman for the GAIN Coalition and former senior advisor to U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman:
“The Fiscal Responsibility Act is an important step forward in reforming our burdensome and slow permitting process that is holding back U.S. infrastructure development. The modernization of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) will be significant for expediting energy infrastructure projects currently hamstrung by onerous processes.
“While the permitting reform provisions included in the debt ceiling deal are a step in the right direction, it is disappointing that limits for judicial reviews were not included in the FRA. Addressing lengthy federal agency review processes is necessary for speeding up energy projects, but not addressing weaponized litigation when it comes to these developments is a missed opportunity. Both sides of the aisle must continue to work towards comprehensive permitting reform legislation.”