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Fix the Broken Permitting Process, NAM Tells Congress

A continuous regulatory onslaught is hamstringing the permitting process for U.S. energy and infrastructure projects—and thus reducing manufacturing competitiveness and harming the U.S. economy, NAM Vice President of Energy & Resources Policy Brandon Farris told Congress on Tuesday. 

What’s going on: By consolidating and cleaning up our infrastructure permitting regulations, the U.S. can advance multiple top policy priorities, Farris said at “The Next Fifty Years of the Clean Water Act: Examining the Law and Infrastructure Project Completion,” a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

  • “Streamlining and modernizing our nation’s permitting laws and procedures will help us advance many of our nation’s shared priorities, improving the quality of life for all communities; modernizing our infrastructure; achieving energy security; ramping up critical mineral production; enhancing manufacturing competitiveness and creating manufacturing jobs in the U.S.,” Farris said. “These are goals that all Americans can support.”

Why the wait? Current wait times for the approval of critical manufacturing facilities, roads, bridges and more are needlessly lengthy, and they’re forcing business overseas, Farris continued.

  • “Why should we settle for a permitting process that can take 10 or 15 years to approve essential projects?” he asked, adding that in Australia, a country with similar environmental protections, approvals take about two to three years.
  • One manufacturer of critical raw materials for semiconductors recently told the NAM that “because of the regulatory uncertainty in obtaining a Clean Water Act section 402 permit in a timely manner . . . they are going to build a facility in the E.U.” instead of the U.S.

Steps to success: Manufacturers are urging legislators to take several actions to rectify the broken system. These are:

  • Consolidate permitting processes—with enforceable deadlines—for the siting of new energy projects and their infrastructure;
  • Speed up the approval process for transportation-infrastructure projects;
  • Commit to developing our resources to strengthen U.S. supply chains for the critical minerals vital to national security;
  • Ensure that the Biden administration follows congressional intent on all streamlining efforts, including the One Federal Decision, a Transportation Department approach that seeks to expedite certain federal environmental reviews.

The last word: “Permitting reform will help us achieve more—more manufacturing, more domestic energy production, more inputs and raw materials and more jobs,” Farris concluded. “And our country and the world will be better off if we and our allies do not depend on our authoritarian rivals for energy and other natural resources.” 

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