A debt limit deal between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., could include ways to ease federal permitting of energy projects, according to numerous reports.
This would help speed the construction of transmission, pipelines and other energy projects, but it is dividing environmental and clean energy advocates.
The American Council on Renewable Energy, or ACORE, and two other groups wrote to House and Senate leaders May 22 urging bipartisan transmission permitting legislation. But as many as 75 environmental and community groups said May 17 they’re concerned that easing permitting could undermine environmental goals and further damage communities struggling with a legacy of fossil fuel plants and other sources of pollution.
With a June 1 deadline looming, Biden and McCarthy are continuing talks to reach a compromise on raising the debt limit that would allow the federal government to continue borrowing.
Permitting reform is part of the discussions. Targeted by numerous bills in the House and Senate, permitting reform has long been a priority among energy companies, construction firms and others in the energy industry with their congressional allies who are frustrated at the amount of time needed to sort through complicated rules to build projects.
ACORE urged a “bipartisan process through regular order” — the usual legislative process rather than closed-door negotiations.
“We urge that any negotiated framework addressing environmental reviews must also include requisite transmission siting and permitting reform,” ACORE said. “We oppose any effort to decouple these two important topics, including as part of debt ceiling negotiations.”
Grassroots environmental, religious and labor groups agree that permitting reform should be legislated by Congress outside of the debt limit negotiations. But scores of organizations said in a letter obtained by Axios that the trade group American Clean Power should oppose energy legislation or permitting reforms that weaken environmental laws “and reduce our ability to protect our communities from dangerous fossil fuel projects.”
A spokesman for ACP did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The White House has signed on to some form of permitting reform. John Podesta, senior clean energy adviser to Biden, said earlier this month that the president “doesn’t love everything” in bipartisan permitting reform legislation introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. The measure would accelerate deployment of critical electric transmission and speed the interconnection of clean energy resources.
Still, the president supports it, Podesta said.
Manchin said earlier this month he intends to bring his bil to the Senate floor for a vote by July 31, the tentative start of the chamber’s summer recess. It’s one of several bills in Congress proposing changes in how energy and other projects obtain permits.