Green Energy Dreams Derailed: Inside The Battle Over Biden's Climate Bill

By Victor Smiroff | Sunday, 31 March 2024 10:30 PM
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President Joe Biden's landmark climate legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), is being hampered by a lack of comprehensive permitting reform.

This absence allows environmentalist lawsuits to obstruct green energy projects funded by the bill.

The IRA allocated hundreds of billions of dollars to support green energy initiatives across the nation. However, the legislation did not incorporate significant reform to the permitting process, which would accelerate construction timelines and protect developments from environmental legal challenges. Energy policy experts and stakeholders have expressed to the Daily Caller News Foundation that unless Congressional Democrats can negotiate a permitting reform package with Republicans during an election year, these issues will persist in the implementation of the IRA.

Green energy developments, such as solar and wind projects, require connection to the grid via transmission lines to supply power. Permitting reform would expedite the lengthy paperwork process for this transmission and offer developers an additional layer of protection against environmental lawsuits that disrupt the construction of green energy projects.

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However, this reform has yet to occur, largely due to Congressional Democrats' inability to reach a consensus on what the reform should entail to counter Republican proposals, as reported by E&E News.

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Isaac Orr, a policy analyst for the Center for the American Experiment specializing in energy policy, told the DCNF, "I think that not having any transmission reform is a huge barrier to implementing the IRA. It’s a physical reality that you need the transmission in order to incorporate all this new capacity on the grid.”

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The lack of reform has left numerous green energy projects vulnerable to legal challenges from environmental groups, who often employ similar legal tactics used by opponents of fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

For instance, a coalition of tribes and environmental organizations are suing to halt a massive $10 billion transmission project in Arizona. Other coalitions have taken legal action alleging violations of environmental laws by offshore wind developers constructing wind farms off the coasts of Virginia and Massachusetts. Conservation groups continue to oppose Wisconsin’s Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line, suing the government to halt construction.

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Erik Milito, the president of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), told the DCNF, “Reforms aimed at streamlining the federal government’s permit decision-making process and discouraging frivolous litigation have the potential not only to improve regulatory efficiency but also to bring about greater certainty and predictability in the offshore wind sector.”

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Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a leading advocate for comprehensive permitting reform, has attempted to advance legislation to expedite the permitting process and reduce opportunities for litigation to delay timelines for all types of energy projects.

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Currently, there are at least ten different permitting-related bills in Congress and two major regulatory initiatives underway at the federal level. However, progress on streamlining the permitting process remains slow, according to Utility Dive.

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Mike McKenna, a Republican strategist with extensive experience in the energy sector, told the DCNF about Congressional gridlock on permitting reform, “All of these things, the Clean Water Act, the way the National Environmental Policy Act is now run … you can’t get anything built because of these statutes.”

He added, “So we are about a year into what I think is going to be a seven- or eight-year process, where everyone on the Left starts figuring out, ‘Oh, my goodness, these guys were right, You can’t build any of this stuff.”

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