- Twelve conservative and pro-energy advocacy organizations on Monday sent a letter urging congressional leaders to vote against Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s permitting reform bill for energy projects as they believe it would give too much authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) while doing little to accelerate the development of energy projects.
- The letter, which was led by Heritage Action for America, states that Manchin’s bill would give FERC the power to approve energy transmission lines for renewable energy projects without the approval of local governments while also failing to reform the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
- “It uses permitting reform as a pretext to radically transform electricity markets and trample on state rights,” the groups wrote.
Twelve conservative and pro-energy advocacy groups sent a letter Monday urging Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to vote against Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s permitting bill, which they believe would greatly expand the power of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) while doing little to expedite the development of key energy projects.
Manchin’s proposed bill, dubbed ‘The Building American Energy Security Act of 2022,” aims to speed up the permitting of domestic energy infrastructure by reforming federal environmental rules and directing courts to expedite the review of legal disputes surrounding energy projects. The groups told Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, that the bill poses as permitting reform legislation while giving FERC the power to approve green energy transmission lines without the approval of local governments, according to the letter, which was led by Heritage Action For America and signed by the Competitive Enterprises Institute, as well as ten other groups. (RELATED: ‘Ugly Asterisk’: House Democrat Takes A Victory Lap After Helping Kill Manchin’s Energy Bill)
“It uses permitting reform as a pretext to radically transform electricity markets and trample on state rights,” the letter reads. “It would even force state residents to pay the costs in electricity rates across a region—regardless of whether a state uses the electricity.”
The letter also states that the bill’s “toothless language” allows federal agencies to dodge environmental review deadlines and other requirements by allowing stipulations to be modified by the agency for “good cause.” Although the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has been “exploited” to block or hold up various electrical grid, water and highway developments, Manchin’s bill only attempts to limit NEPA’s effects on energy projects, according to the groups.
NEPA requires federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to evaluate the environmental impacts of proposed infrastructure projects which can severely delay or halt developments entirely.
“The bill would give an obscure independent commission, FERC, the authority to command electric utilities to build high-voltage transmission lines to connect wind and solar installations to population centers hundreds of miles away and then compel electricity consumers to pay for the enormous costs through higher rates,” Myron Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Ebell emphasized that while Manchin’s bill does make minor reforms to environmental and judicial review deadlines, the bill does not make a serious attempt to amend NEPA, which he said is the main obstacle to faster permitting.
In August, Schumer and Pelosi agreed to help Manchin pass a bill that would accelerate federal permitting for energy and mining projects in exchange for his sponsoring of the Democrats’ climate spending bill. However, congressional leaders chose to remove Manchin’s bill from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Dec. 6 due to a lack of votes.
Manchin is still pushing to get his legislation passed before the end of the year and could attach it to an omnibus spending bill that must pass by Dec. 16, according to E&E News. The West Virginia senator declared that the legislation could help “reclaim” America’s energy independence and urged senators to include his bill in the NDAA as an amendment in a Tuesday statement.
FERC, the EPA and the offices of Schumer, Pelosi, McConnell and McCarthy did not immediately respond to the DCNFs request for comment. Manchin’s office directed the DCNF to the senator’s statement.
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