Energy & Environment — Sponsored By: Panasonic
Sustainability Democrats propose narrow permitting reform effort on electric grid, community involvement
A group of House Democrats that are part of a sustainability coalition on Monday put forward a narrow proposal on permitting reform amid broader talks on how to reshape the country’s energy approval process.
The new policy brief released by leaders of the House Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition (SEEC) narrowly focuses on bolstering the country’s electricity infrastructure and community involvement in energy project assessments.
“This policy brief breaks down some of the key legislative solutions that Congress should take up when considering reforming our laws to build a clean energy future,” the brief’s introduction reads.
The permitting reform negotiations are complex as large swaths of Democrats and Republicans would have to be on board on a set of issues where the two parties remain far apart.
Some of SEEC’s leaders, including co-chair Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and vice chairs Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), and Donald McEachin (D-Va.) were part of a large coalition of Democrats who expressed opposition to Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) permitting reform push.
The new pitch from the sustainability coalition promotes legislation that the lawmakers say would give the federal government more power to approve some electric transmission lines, bolster grid resiliency and promote the development of community solar and offshore wind.
It also called for increases to community involvement by requiring the preparation of reports on whether projects will harm community health and establishing environmental justice liaisons for such projects.
Manchin has been fighting to speed up the approval process for both fossil and renewable energy projects. Backed by Democratic leadership, he recently attempted to pass legislation that included shorter timelines for environmental impact studies and the approval of a pipeline in his home state.
Manchin’s push was met with pushback from both sides. Democrats, led by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), have raised concerns that Manchin’s push could hamper the environmental review process and benefit polluting fossil fuels.
Separately, in a new letter to House leadership on Monday, Grijalva reiterated his request to exclude the package from upcoming must-pass funding legislation for both general government spending and military spending.
Meanwhile, Republicans have argued that Manchin’s proposal didn’t go far enough. They have particularly pushed for tighter restrictions on how long agencies can take to study a project’s potential environmental impacts.
Some have also expressed opposition to working with the senator after his support for the Democrats’ climate, tax and health care bill.
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