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Make energy affordable

What is the hardest part of building a solar energy farm, setting transmission lines, or a gas pipeline?   

If you think it is getting the money, the technology, or building the project, think again. The toughest challenge an energy project faces is Washington bureaucracy. 

Well-intended regulations have grown out of control and are forcing countless energy projects to sit and watch how their capital, technology, and labor sit idle as bureaucrats take years to green-light their projects.  

These delays are not costless. 

The waiting time is fatal for many projects: costs increase, investors get cold feet, and consumers lose interest. This labyrinth hurts fossil fuels and renewable as well, as 90% of the pending permits come from solar or wind energy projects.  

Everyday Americans are the ones who pay the consequences of this regulatory nightmare, as they foot the bill for ever higher energy prices.  

We must change how permits and regulations work if we want reliable and affordable energy.  

Permitting nightmare: How long does it take to get an energy project up and running? 

For the sake of argument, imagine you are setting up an energy project in Texas.  

You have enough investors, the technology, the business plan, the machinery, and the engineers lined up. You know the local and state requirements —which can be quite a headache—needed to proceed.  Now, you need federal government approval.  

Depending on the type of project, some hurdles to getting approval could include additional site considerations, environmental review from several agencies, and permit applications for various issues, including air, water, waste, and endangered species.    

Each stage requires copious paperwork, time, effort, and money.  

The environmental review process at both the state and federal levels is a flagship example of the puzzling bureaucracy companies face.  

The National Environmental Protection Act of 1970 mandates federal agencies to draft an environmental impact statement (EIS) for any federal action that might significantly affect the environment.  

EISs have transformed into an unrecognizable bureaucratic monster. In the early 1970s, an EIS may have consisted of just a few dozen pages. Today, they can average 1,600 pages and are needed for most projects requiring federal permits.  

These thousand pages long reports are not quick drafts, as it could take four and a half to six years to write one.  

That’s four and a half to six years of a project “on hold” with people not working, costs rising, and investors getting restless. Regretfully, not all projects can afford this delay, and many die a slow death by regulations.  

That’s only one check you need to tick. After the EIS is done, there still is a long list of government approvals before groundbreaking can occur. Of course, that is assuming the EIS process does not end up in court litigation.   

Streamline regulations, make energy affordable 

Regulations should protect people, not harm them. However, permitting regulations do the opposite: They keep people down and slow economic progress. We need a different approach.  

We can streamline the regulatory approval process to protect the environment and unleash our energy potential.  

Both sides of the aisle agree that permitting reform must happen, and some reform has been moving us in the right direction. However, there is much more we need to do.  

Congress needs to step up.  

Leaving all the policy details to the agencies and the executive and leaving the door open for regulatory overreach has indirectly created the inefficient process we have right now.  

Legislation such as S.1449, the Revitalizing the Economy by Simplifying Timelines and Assuring Regulatory Transparency Act, or the “RESTART” Act; H.B. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, are but two examples of bills that can help streamline the regulatory process and unleash America’s energy potential.