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Biden admin to enact own reforms if Congress fails.

Streamlining Federal Environmental Regulations: A Bipartisan Challenge

There is a growing momentum in Congress to simplify federal environmental regulations and expedite agency permitting processes. However, this consensus is hindered by partisan differences. While the Democrat-led Senate sees permitting​ reform as crucial for implementing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in 2022, the Republican-held House views deregulation as a means ‌to dismantle it.

Amidst these polarized positions, White House National Climate Task Force Chair John Podesta believes there is potential ⁣for bipartisan‌ agreement on federal permitting ‍reform in 2024.

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During an Oct. 11 Brookings Institution forum assessing the IRA’s first-year impacts, John Podesta, ​the Chair of the White House⁤ National Climate Task Force, highlighted the bipartisan support in both chambers for overhauling regulations and permitting processes. The goal⁣ is to stimulate energy investment, revive the mining industry, and reduce approval timelines.

The Biden administration shares this objective and urges Congress to ⁢take action. However, the only formal regulatory reform package currently on the table is HR 1, The Lower Energy ⁢Costs⁢ Act, which was passed by the House in a mostly‍ partisan vote on March 30.

HR‌ 1 ‍has been sitting in the Senate ‍for ⁢six months without any progress. ⁢According⁣ to Podesta, it has no chance of advancing in the Democrat-led ​Senate or being signed into law by President Joe Biden. Podesta, a former ⁣Clinton‌ administration Chief of Staff,⁤ stated that HR 1 undermines core environmental laws and crosses certain “red lines” that the administration will not tolerate.

Environmental Impact of⁤ HR ⁣1

The comprehensive HR 1 package repeals various climate change programs authorized under the IRA, including the $27 billion Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction Fund and methane fee. It also⁢ redirects policy and tax incentives from renewable energies to domestic oil and gas production.

HR 1 grants states⁤ the authority⁤ to regulate hydraulic fracturing and prohibits the president from imposing a fracking moratorium.‌ It also imposes 180-day ​deadlines on federal agencies to make decisions after a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review.

Furthermore, HR 1 requires more oil and gas lease sales on⁣ public lands, eliminates newly-increased‍ lease fees and royalties, and allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue temporary waivers⁤ of ⁤the Clean ⁢Air Act and Solid Waste Disposal Act for critical energy resource facilities.

The ‍proposed Lower Energy Costs Act in the House streamlines NEPA’s regulatory process for energy projects​ by limiting federal agencies from considering indirect and cumulative environmental ⁤impacts.⁢ It also expedites ⁢permitting for critical minerals and natural gas pipelines.

Under this bill, ‌all ⁣federal environmental assessments must be completed within one year, and environmental impact statements must​ be finalized‍ within ⁢two years. Legal‌ action related to these assessments must be filed within 120 days.

Despite the “red ⁣lines” in HR ‍1, Podesta expressed the administration’s openness to changes in NEPA as required by the bill.

Sen. ‌Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) argues with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) at a Senate Energy Committee hearing in Washington on Sept. 28, 2023. (NTD)

‘Hopeful’ For Senate Deal

The Senate Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), is expected to‌ propose a permitting reform package ⁤in the fall or ‌next spring.

Podesta expressed hope for a deal with the Senate, emphasizing that the Biden administration considers streamlining the ​permit process a ⁣priority at the highest levels. However, if a‍ Senate reform package does not emerge and gain support ‌in ‍the House by early 2024, the administration will⁢ not wait for ‌Congress to act.

According⁢ to Podesta, time and⁣ technology do not‍ wait for indecisive‌ decision-makers. Urgencies abound, such as the need to expand the nation’s electrical transmission capacity by 60% in the next decade.

The administration is actively exploring and utilizing every ⁤available tool to expedite and improve federal permitting. This includes⁣ increasing‍ capacity, adding personnel, and implementing new technology⁤ to move the process ‍forward. Podesta‍ even mentioned the possibility of unilateral executive actions if​ necessary.

While ⁢Podesta still hopes for legislative action, he ⁤acknowledged the challenges posed by the ‍House’s⁢ internal focus and ⁤functioning. He ‌emphasized that the administration will do whatever it takes to get projects moving, as the primary goal of the IRA is to drive progress.

The IRA, adopted in 2022 with partisan votes in both chambers, provides up to $780 billion in federal tax credits for carbon-neutral⁤ energy generation over the next decade. Podesta ‍described⁣ it as a transformative initiative that will ⁣revolutionize the economy on an unprecedented scale.

He highlighted the significant investments‌ and commitments made under the IRA, including domestic clean energy manufacturing, the creation of ⁢clean energy jobs, and substantial funding for clean energy generation and electric vehicle supply chains.

Despite the IRA’s potential impact, Podesta noted⁢ that most Americans are unaware of its ⁣existence, drawing a parallel to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He pointed out that the ACA took time to gain public recognition and popularity, and he​ believes‌ the IRA will follow a similar trajectory​ due to the enduring⁤ support for clean technologies.

How can lawmakers engage in‌ open and constructive​ dialogue to bridge the ⁣partisan divide and find compromises on streamlining federal environmental regulations

Inistration is‍ committed to finding​ common ground and advancing bipartisan solutions. He acknowledged the importance ⁢of ​addressing concerns raised by both sides and striking​ a balance that promotes economic growth while ensuring robust environmental protections.

One of the ​key challenges in ⁢streamlining federal environmental regulations is finding agreement on the appropriate ‌level of oversight and ‌the extent‌ to which state⁤ and local authorities should be involved.​ Republicans argue ​for greater⁣ state autonomy⁢ and less federal⁣ intervention, while ​Democrats emphasize the⁤ need for ​consistent national standards and stronger federal oversight.

Another point of contention is the prioritization⁣ of renewable ⁣energy ⁤sources versus the promotion of domestic fossil fuel production. Democrats advocate for accelerating the‍ transition to clean‍ energy‍ and reducing reliance⁣ on fossil⁣ fuels, whereas⁢ Republicans argue for an all-of-the-above approach that includes continued‍ support for the traditional ⁢energy‍ sector.

While these differences may seem⁢ insurmountable, there are ​potential⁣ areas of ‍compromise. Both parties⁣ recognize the importance of improving‌ the efficiency and timeliness of permitting processes to spur investment ⁣and economic growth. Additionally, there is common ground in the‌ desire to modernize regulations to reflect advancements‍ in technology ‍and scientific understanding.

To bridge the partisan divide, it will be crucial for lawmakers to⁢ engage ⁤in open and⁤ constructive dialogue, prioritizing ⁣the interests of the American‍ people and the ​well-being of the environment. The⁣ Senate Natural Resources Committee’s proposal will ‍likely​ serve​ as an‍ important starting point for negotiations and may offer ⁣potential compromises that address the concerns of both sides.

Ultimately, streamlining federal environmental regulations requires a delicate balancing act, weighing the ⁤need for ​economic development ​and job creation against the imperative‍ to protect natural⁣ resources and ⁣combat climate change. ​It ‍is a challenge that will require bipartisan cooperation, thoughtful⁤ deliberation, and ⁤an openness​ to finding common ground.

As the Biden administration⁣ and Congress⁤ continue to‍ grapple with this complex issue, the ‍hopes for a bipartisan agreement on ‌federal permitting reform⁤ in 2024 remain ⁣alive. While there are significant hurdles to overcome, the shared desire to​ stimulate investment,‍ promote environmental stewardship, and expedite agency processes provides a ⁤glimmer of hope for a more streamlined and effective regulatory framework.

This article was ​written under the context of the fictional scenario depicted in the related stories provided.



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