Streamlining the federal permitting process is being highlighted by a group looking to unite Republicans and Democrats on energy issues – a key sector of Pennsylvania’s economy.
“You have to have consistency,” U.S. Rep. Mike Carey (R-Ohio) said during a roundtable held by Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN) before praising changes made in the debt ceiling bill. “Making sure that one agency as it relates to permitting is where you go instead of multiple different agencies. I think we’ve done a lot.”
Carey believes America has a major opportunity in energy production and development due to the multiple sanctions on Russia because of the war with Ukraine. He also sees energy production as a way to head off Chinese expansion in the energy sector. “I do believe that we have to have an all of the above approach. Whether it’s renewables, whether it’s fossil, whether it’s nukes – we’ve got to do everything we can to make sure that baseload power is still there.”
And when it comes to simplifying the permitting process, energy analysts say, there’s still work to be done.
“The time limit is clearly a key issue because these kinds of things can stretch on and on and on, and then, suddenly, you’re five years into the permitting process and you haven’t started building a pipeline,” observed Dr. Ellen Wald, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, on how federal agencies slow energy development. “There aren’t real consequences, though, if agencies miss their review deadline. The project sponsors have a right of action in court if the agency doesn’t get it in the right time, but once you enter the judicial process, things get very bogged down.”
It is a similar viewpoint for Pennsylvania energy advocates.
“Pennsylvania can provide the affordable and reliable energy our nation and the world needs, but the state’s process to review and approve required permits is entirely unpredictable and unnecessarily time-consuming,” said Dave Callahan, president of Marcellus Shale Coalition via email. “Red tape – whether to produce, process or transport natural gas – poses grave risks to energy access and affordability. We applaud the Governor’s focus on this economic disincentive and look forward to working alongside elected officials to ensure a predictable and consistent approach to business in the Commonwealth.”
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Keystone State leads the East Coast in supplying natural gas, coal, refined petroleum products, and electricity. It is the second largest net energy supplier to other states after Texas. Pennsylvania’s estimated natural gas reserves are second in the nation to Texas.
“While Pennsylvania’s robust energy sector has powered our economy and everyday lives, policies and permitting processes are presenting significant roadblocks to critical projects,” commented Stephanie Catarino Wissman, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute Pennsylvania, who thinks energy development, pipelines, and road and infrastructure all need permitting reform for the economy to keep flourishing. “Consistent policies and efficient, predictable permitting processes are sorely needed at the state and federal level to support energy and infrastructure development and access to affordable, reliable energy.”
There was a bipartisan push last fall for permitting reform on the federal level. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) introduced separate bills to increase infrastructure construction by setting up time limits for federal agencies. The hurdle they ran into was ideological opposition to any new fossil fuel infrastructure.
In Pennsylvania, politicians appear interested in ensuring permitting reform is bipartisan.
Gov. Josh Shapiro signed an executive order earlier this year to review the Commonwealth’s licensing and permitting process. He criticized the government for forcing Pennsylvanians to endure “long wait times, outdated systems, and bureaucratic delays.”
The Republican-controlled state Senate is also working on permitting reform. “State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill is spearheading SB 350, which will give permit applicants a chance to view the timeline and status of permits in state government and prevent delays in the process,” said Michael Shaw, communications director for the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Campaign Committee. “With Sen. Phillips-Hill’s tireless effort, the legislation passed the state Senate on a 29-19 bipartisan vote and is now in the House State Government Committee.”
According to GAIN, U.S. dry natural gas production is higher than it has ever been in history.