News: Permitting Reform and the NDAA
Tony Sirna
620 Posts

The media is reporting that Democrats are looking to take up bipartisan permitting reform before the end of the year, by attaching it to the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that must be passed before the end of the session.

Given our general support for Clean Energy Permitting Reform we are watching these developments closely and as soon as we have a chance to review bill text we will make a decision on whether we support this legislation. If you have not yet read up on why permitting reform is so important, please see our trainings on the topic

We are likely to see bill text in the next couple days and might see a vote in the House this week. Then the bill will move to the Senate for a vote.

We are not planning to mobilize volunteers to contact Congress directly before the House vote given the short timing, but our DC staff will reach out to Congressional offices directly and possibly through liaisons as long as the bill is in line with our principles.

I will post more here once we have had a chance to review the bill.

12 Replies
George Donart
125 Posts

@Tony Sirna  Here's the latest from E&E with a link to a list of changes from CR version.  Doesn't mention MVP specifically.

 

Tony Sirna
620 Posts

The media is now reporting that permitting reform will not be included in the National Defense Authorization Act.

CCL will continue to advocate for Clean Energy Permitting Reform in the next Congress, because it is  essential that we unlock the clean energy infrastructure that’s waiting to be built, and that we expand our electrical transmission capacity to get that clean energy to American homes and businesses.

While some climate or environmental justice groups are describing this as a victory, the slow pace that we are building clean energy infrastructure remains a problem that must be addressed. 

Without a swift transition to clean energy we are extending the status quo, which means continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels. Researchers at Princeton estimate that if the U.S. doesn’t speed up its electric transmission infrastructure build-out, it will burn about 25% more coal in 2030 than it would have if the Inflation Reduction Act was not passed. That could result in thousands of extra premature deaths in disadvantaged communities living near and breathing the air pollution generated by those fossil fuel power plants.

The good news is that clean energy projects would benefit far more from permitting reform than fossil fuels. In 2021 and 2022, about 80% of the new electricity generation capacity built in the U.S. came from solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries. Of the proposed projects in the queue waiting to be built, 93% are wind and solar, along with just a bit of natural gas.

It’s clear there is room for us to build relationships with others in the climate movement, listen to their concerns, and encourage nuanced discussions of the need for us to speed up our build out of clean energy infrastructure. We should do that with the utmost respect, care and humility, with a focus on shared values and shared goals. 

Hopefully we can find a way forward in the new Congress that can expedite permitting of clean energy so the transition can progress at the pace we need, while allowing communities to have their voices heard in the process.

@Tony Sirna thanks for the updates! What is CCL's current position on specific permitting reforms, such as imposing timelines on NEPA permitting and/or categorical exclusions? One of the speakers at the conference supported both.  This would be helpful to know for our lobby meetings tomorrow and Friday.
 

Tony Sirna
620 Posts

@Lauren Barros

With Manchin’s bill seemingly off the table right now we want to take a step back and take some time to examine these topics more thoroughly, and dialogue with our allies in Congress about what is needed and what is possible in the new Congress.

For now, it is best that we stick to these basic principles that we’ve outlined on our Clean Energy Permitting Reform training page.

CCL supports federal policies that:

  • Add to America’s capacity to transmit clean electricity
  • Speed up the approval of clean energy projects that are waiting to be built
  • Allow communities to make their voices heard on the environmental and other impacts of proposed energy projects.
     
Tony Sirna
620 Posts

An update:

The media is reporting that Majority Leader Schumer plans to hold a vote on Senator Manchin' permitting reform bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). 

However, given Senate rules and time constraints to pass the NDAA before the end of the year. Holding such a vote is not straightforward and even given Schumer's commitment, it may not happen.

First, because of Senate rules and the lack of time left in this Congress, Senator Schumer will need to file for cloture before permitting is brought up as an amendment. Cloture requires 60 votes. Given the stated opposition to holding a vote on the amendment by a number of Republicans, there are likely not 60 votes for cloture and that vote could fail. If that happens, Senator Schumer is likely to have to agree to not bring up permitting reform as an amendment to get the votes necessary to invoke cloture and proceed with debate of the NDAA.  Another possibility to get the necessary votes for cloture is a unanimous consent agreement is reached to require a 60 vote threshold for passage of the Manchin permitting amendment, instead of the normal majority vote for an amendment.  This would allow debate on the bill to begin, but still give  Republicans the ability to block the amendment when it is brought to vote.

In either scenario, it does not appear that the Manchin permitting amendment currently has the votes to become part of the National Defense Authorization Act, so CCL is not taking any position or mobilizing on the topic at this time.


 

@Tony Sirna Biden announced today that he supports Manchin's permitting reform proposal (

Will CCL be taking a position on this?


 

Tony Sirna
620 Posts

Yesterday the Senate voted not to include Senator Manchin’s permitting reform bill in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with a 47-47 vote (60 ‘yes’ votes were needed). Seven Republicans, including Senators Murkowski, Romney, Sullivan, Collins, Capito, Toomey, and Portman, and 40 Democrats voted in favor of the proposal, including climate hawks like Senators Brian Schatz, Sheldon Whitehouse, Martin Heinrich, and Tina Smith.

Shortly before the vote, CCL’s team in DC sent a letter of support for permitting reform to Senate offices. While there were serious concerns about some of the details of the bill, we felt that it was important that Congress know that there are climate organizations that support Clean Energy Permitting Reform and see it as critical to meeting our climate goals.

Before the vote, President Biden said, “I support Sen. Manchin’s permitting reform proposal as a way to cut Americans’ energy bills, promote U.S. energy security, and boost our ability to get energy projects built and connected to the grid. Today, far too many projects face delays — keeping us from generating critical, cost-saving energy needed by families and businesses across America. That’s an impediment to our economic growth, for creating new jobs, and for lessening our reliance on foreign imports.”

Leader of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, Kathy Castor (D-FL) also said recently, “The clock has run out on his [Manchin’s] exact proposal, but the need to get renewables onto the grid and reform transmission policy across this country remains, We’re not interested in and we are not recommending in any shape or form any rollback of the bedrock environmental laws, but there are some very important reforms that can help speed this cleaner, cheaper energy.”

Senator Whitehouse said of permitting reform, “It’s crucial for the emissions reductions that the [Inflation Reduction Act] claims to produce.”

Politico Pro had this from Senator Schatz on Republicans, "We can and we did address the concerns that various public utilities commissions and electric utilities have [on transmission]. So I think on policy there is a sweet spot. [Republicans] just have to decide if they want to get this done or use it as a cudgel." and this on progressive opposition “But Schatz argued that progressives are also standing in the way by helping stop a bill designed to smooth the delivery of wind and solar to major power markets. "I reject the premise that it is progressive to block clean energy."”

Why did CCL support this bill?

CCL added Clean Energy Permitting Reform to our policy agenda because it is so important that we unlock the clean energy infrastructure that’s waiting to be built and get that clean energy to American homes and businesses.

When we added Clean Energy Permitting Reform to our agenda we laid out three principles  for federal policies. Policies would need to:

  • Add to America’s capacity to transmit clean electricity
  • Speed up the approval of clean energy projects that are waiting to be built
  • Allow communities to make their voices heard on the environmental and other impacts of proposed energy projects.

We believe that, despite its imperfections, this bill meets those principles, and can help reduce emissions faster and reduce harm to frontline communities from pollution. In short we think this is a net benefit, both for the climate and for the health of Americans most impacted by our current use of fossil fuels. 

What actions are we taking?

Our team in DC sent a letter to Senate offices telling them that we support this bill and encouraging them to vote yes. We are not asking volunteers to take any other action on the bill.

Why did we wait until now to voice our support?

We’ve been monitoring this bill closely and decided to wait until it was clear that there would actually be a vote on the bill. Given our position in support of Clean Energy Permitting Reform generally, we felt it was important to take a position once the vote was scheduled.  

How to relate to other groups who are opposing this bill?

We should all be aware that many climate groups and some MOC are opposed to this bill, based on the concerns that it may allow for more fossil fuel infrastructure to be built and may not allow sufficient input from local communities and advocacy organizations in the permitting process. 

CCL respects those concerns – and we share the goal of a swift transition to clean energy and we support community input into the permitting process. We believe that this legislation would have a much needed impact on expediting clean energy, with minimal impact on fossil fuel infrastructure (see info in our trainings addressing these concerns). It’s important to recognize that we have shared goals, even as we might disagree on tactics, or come to different conclusions on the merits of specific legislation.

You are encouraged to focus on shared values and shared goals. Be clear that we supported this bill because we believe that it will reduce climate emissions and reduce harm from pollution, while allowing for communities to have their voices heard.

Jan Freed
118 Posts

@Tony Sirna  Thank you.  As it stands, there are dozens of metals needed to build the EV's, solar panels, and wind turbines.  We are far from being able to meet these quotas. These will require many new mines to open up, or we will continue to rely on China and others.  Is permitting reform going to address the anti-mine sentiment in the U.S.?
 

Hi @Jan Freed.  We'll have to see what emerges from the permitting reform negotiations process, but House Republicans are currently pushing to include mining reforms in the package, and some Democrats would probably be on board too.
 

Jan Freed
118 Posts
Does CCL have a position on miming permitting? I do not think it is possible to meet our zero carbon goals without new sources of these metals. At least in the United States.

No, our positions are not that granular.

Jan Freed
118 Posts
Thank you.  I think that mining is part of the bill. Also, it is possible that we can require (as part of a trade agreement) that these metals be mined in other countries with environmental safeguards.


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