Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine opportunities for Congress to reform the permitting process for energy and mineral projects. During the hearing, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee, discussed how permitting reform is necessary for energy reliability through the use of all types of energy, and the bipartisan recognition that permitting reform is vital to ensuring America’s energy security.
During the hearing, Chairman Manchin commented on the recent permitting reform legislation introduced by Members on both sides of the aisle and the need to come together on a piece of bipartisan legislation.
“As the Chairman of this Committee, I’m committed to continuing to convene my colleagues for open dialogue and negotiations. At this point we have the legislation I filed that received bipartisan support, the House and Senate Republican proposals, and Senator Carper’s forthcoming proposal on the table. Now, just as we did with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, we all need to sit down and negotiate in good faith—putting politics aside—to craft the Bipartisan Permitting Reform Bill,” said chairman Manchin.
Later in the hearing, Chairman Manchin continued, “I would like for all of you and everyone in the room here, if you will when you leave this room, support bipartisan permitting reform. Not my bill, not Senator Barrasso’s bill, not Senator Capito’s bill, not Senator Carper’s bill, whoever is putting bills up — we need a little bit of all four of them to make this work. We can get together much quicker if we’re all in this, and I think we are. We want this done and everybody wants it done.”
Chairman Manchin stressed that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee bears great responsibility over reforms to America’s energy and mineral permitting process.
“It’s the agencies under our jurisdiction doing most of the permitting for these projects. Over 80% of NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for energy and minerals projects are completed by agencies under this committee’s jurisdiction—and that’s almost half of the EISs done across the entire federal government. They take 4.5 years on average, and often several years beyond that. Members of this Committee have a wide range of views regarding what the future of American energy should look like, but no matter what you want to build, it takes too long,” said Chairman Manchin.
Chairman Manchin also noted how his legislation, the Building American Energy Security Act of 2023 that was supported by 47 bipartisan Senators as an amendment to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), would reform America’s energy and mineral permitting process.
“This is why the bill I introduced, and 47 bipartisan Senators voted for last year, would set enforceable timelines for agencies to complete reviews, limit the length of these reviews, and require agencies to coordinate on one government-wide, simultaneous review instead of multiple uncoordinated reviews. It would accelerate the court process for energy projects by requiring courts to set these cases for expedited review and shortening deadlines to bring lawsuits from 6 years to less than 6 months. This will provide certainty that if agencies approve a project, it won’t then get delayed by endless litigation,” said Chairman Manchin.
During the hearing, Chairman Manchin highlighted the Mountain Valley Pipeline and high-voltage transmission as examples of how the United States’ current permitting processes is delaying vital energy infrastructure projects that would strengthen our energy and national security.
“The Mountain Valley Pipeline has been undergoing permitting and litigation for more than 8 years—that includes 8 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews and 9 court cases in the Fourth Circuit. And siting, permitting, litigation, and decision-making on how to pay for long-distance, high voltage transmission lines tie up these projects for over a decade, if they ever get built. These challenges threaten the reliability of our grid. Some reforms will help all sectors – such as setting and enforcing deadlines, expediting litigation, and more. Some will require sector-specific fixes. But no energy sector is immune to permitting roadblocks. Despite every administration and Congress in recent memory—and every sector of the energy industry—identifying permitting reform as a vital need, the problem is getting worse, not better,” said Chairman Manchin.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) commented on the work Chairman Manchin and Senator Wyden have done to encourage the private sector taking steps to pursue a technology neutral approach to the future of energy through historic bipartisan investments that enhance our energy security. Following these comments, Senator Manchin noted:
“The whole purpose of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is energy security. This Administration has been unable to use the word energy security, all they use is climate, and I have corrected them, and I will continue to correct them. It is energy security. We can invest in the technology of the future that we’re all going to need and mature that, but we’re not going to eliminate something before we have something to replace it with. And if you think we’re doing something wrong by having fossil and clean technology, go look at Europe, look at what happened. We’re not going to repeat that mistake,” said Chairman Manchin.
Chairman Manchin questioned all four witnesses about how recent pieces of legislation, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, have driven new investments to the United States.
“Have you all seen an uptick, in the last year or two since we’ve passed pieces of monumental legislation — the bipartisan infrastructure law, the IRA —have you seen more investments, more activity, more desire to do more in America than ever before or have you not?” asked Chairman Manchin.
“Mr. Chairman, uptick would be an understatement. There is an absolute surge of activity. In just the last nine months: private sector capital, $150 billion of announced investment in clean energy; 47 domestic manufacturing facilities between September and April. We can’t put the report out monthly anymore, we have to update it weekly. So, there is incredibly opportunity, but I have to say as you pointed out, it’s going to get harder, not easier, unless we open up the space,” said Mr. Jason Grumet, CEO of the American Clean Power Association.
“We have seen a rush, a gold rush as a matter of fact in some battery materials investments and mines in the United States. However, the permitting juggernaut is proving to be extremely difficult. I believe we learned just yesterday really only two mines have been approved, the rest have been some exploration work,” said Mr. Rich Nolan, President and CEO of the National Mining Association.
“I would say yes, we are talking a lot at the national level about the opportunity coming our way and trying to ramp up training and workforce readiness and looking at that talent pipeline that’s going to be needed. But I will say we’ve heard promises before from the federal government and workers, the best way that we can show them that this is different is to get the shovels in the ground and get the projects moving. Make it a reality,” said Ms. Elizabeth Shuler, President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
“Mr. Chairman the desire is there, certainly in Wyoming. We are an all of the above state. We are eager, ready, willing, able to get to work producing some of the cleanest energy whether it be natural gas, coal, wind, etc.,” said Mr. Paul Ulrich, Vice President of Jonah Energy and a member of the Wyoming Energy Authority Board of Directors.
Chairman Manchin commented on the Administration’s and Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) delay in permitting Class IV wells and carbon capture utilization and sequestration technologies.
“If the EPA does not give us permits for Class VI wells, which they have not, that means they’re trying to strangle you by a thousand cuts. They’re trying to go one way without the other. They know it’s a balanced approach. So don’t tell me you’re going to invest in carbon capture sequestration when we can’t get a permit to sequester the carbon we capture. These are the games that are being played. I know it, they know I know it, and we’re not going to let them get away with it. And we will shut everything down until they start playing exactly how the [IRA] was written and the intent. So, I want all of you to know that very clearly so if you can talk to the Administration, tell them we’re all on the same side — we want energy security, we want fossil cleaner than anywhere else in the world, and we want to develop the new technology for the future,” said Chairman Manchin.
The hearing featured witnesses from the American Clean Power Association, National Mining Association, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Jonah Energy.