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Momentum Builds for Permitting Reform

Democratic and Republican congressional leaders are finding support for environmental permitting reforms, according to E&E News and The Washington Times (both subscription).
What’s going on: This week, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the Simplify Timelines and Assure Regulatory Transparency (START) Act.

  • The legislation, which has the support of 38 other Senate Republicans, aims to overhaul the infrastructure-permitting process.
  • It is the GOP’s answer to a deal made last month by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) and “Democratic leaders [who] promised the West Virginia Democrat they would tack on energy permitting reform to a stopgap funding measure,” the Times reports.
  • The government must pass a funding resolution by Sept. 30 to avoid a partial shutdown.

Why it’s important: Even if the bills don’t move forward immediately, their introduction appears to be a good sign for the future of permitting reform.

  • “Manchin appeared excited by the release of the Republicans’ bill. ‘I think it’s wonderful that we are all on the same page,’ Manchin said,” E&E News reports.

However … While President Biden is “eager to celebrate” the passage of last month’s reconciliation bill, opposition to attaching a permitting-reform rider to the funding resolution is growing among activists and progressive Democrats, putting passage in jeopardy.

What’s in the bills? Though final text of the Manchin permitting reform has not yet been released, it is likely to include codification of “‘one federal decision,’ which aims to speed up project approvals and limit the pages of environmental documents,” according to E&E News. 

  • Capito’s offering “would codify the … definition of ‘waters of the United States,’ or WOTUS, ultimately determining which waters fall under federal jurisdiction.”

The NAM’s view: “Both proposals have elements that build on the NAM’s recommendations, and we will continue working with leaders from both parties to create consensus around a final agreement,” said NAM Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy Rachel Jones.

  • “Even if this doesn’t pass by the end of the year, these issues don’t disappear. Manufacturers know that modernizing permitting is not only a competitiveness and national security issue; it is critical to solving America’s infrastructure challenge and tackling climate change.”
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