Five Facts on Energy Permitting Reform

Five Facts on Energy Permitting Reform

The Big Insight: It takes more than three times as long for the federal government to approve new energy infrastructure projects than it did 50 years ago.

Congress is set to consider energy permitting reforms proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) before the end of September. The legislation would allow stalled projects to be finished and clear the way for new domestic energy production.

1. Permitting reforms could clear the way for more than $3 trillion in clean energy investments over the next decade.

Project review delays are preventing the development of energy infrastructure that is essential in the move toward cleaner energy. The legislation supported by Sen. Manchin would set time limits on litigation that is blocking progress on new projects. According to one analysis, 42% of the delayed projects are related to clean energy, while just 15% are related to fossil fuels.

2. More than 4,000 drilling permits are waiting to be approved by the Interior Department.

The number of approved permits is down from 643 in April 2021 to less than 200 per month. While the Biden administration had been approving more drilling permits on public lands than the Trump administration did, a recent Wall Street Journal analysis found the Biden White House has leased fewer acres for oil and gas drilling offshore and on federal land than any other administration in its early stages dating back to the end of World War II.

3. The U.S. imported $90 billion worth of minerals in 2021.

Most of the copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium, and rare earths used in the U.S. and in many clean energy technologies are processed in China. That’s even though the U.S. has $6.2 trillion worth of minerals within its borders — including 750 million metric tons in lithium reserves and 340 million metric tons in nickel reserves that remain untapped. Permitting reform would ease the path to accessing these materials.

4. The legislation would require the president to designate at least 25 high-priority energy infrastructure projects.

The list would be regularly updated and permitting for these projects would be prioritized. The legislation requires a balance of project types — traditional fossil fuel energies, but also nuclear, renewables, and others.

5. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is almost 95% complete.

The 303-mile pipeline, which would transport natural gas from northern West Virginia to mid-Atlantic markets, remains stalled even though it is nearly finished after eight years of work. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has concluded “that good cause exists” to finish the pipeline, but it has been held up by regulatory and legal challenges. The legislation would authorize completion of the project.

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