GILLETTE, Wyo. — The federal permitting process for Wyoming energy producers would be quicker under a bill Senate Western Caucus Chair Cynthia Lummis, R-WY, introduced, according to a news release Lummis’s office sent out today.
The Revising and Enhancing Project Authorizations Impacted by Review Act’s provisions include forbidding filing a lawsuit based on the National Environmental Policy Act, the release said. Lummis was among those to introduce the bill to streamline the permitting process for U.S. energy, manufacturing and critical infrastructure projects, stating that Wyoming energy producers would be better able to help restore the nation’s energy independence.
“The federal permitting process has become a years-long slog which discourages investment and innovation all together,” Lummis said. “Wyoming energy producers have proven that new projects and technology have the power to lower costs, create jobs and provide cleaner energy. The REPAIR Act reforms the federal permitting process to function more efficiently and reduces radical activists’ ability to file frivolous lawsuits purely designed to delay and derail new projects.”
A one-page summary of the bill said that Congress has extensively funded the expansion of energy and industrial resources for U.S. companies through measures such as the Energy Act of 2020, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, and companies have tried to invest, but the permitting and regulatory system blocks projects.
“Without addressing these hurdles, new investments will perpetually face frivolous lawsuits that do nothing but unnecessarily delay projects that receive a permit following agency review,” the summary said. “This reality threatens investment in all critical domestic projects.”
The act would ensure a thorough, efficient judicial review process while establishing clear guidelines for addressing court decisions.
The act is supposed to:
1. Allow offshore wind to access the same judicial review process as offshore oil and gas under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
2. Move the focus of lawsuits to the underlying authorizing and permitting laws under which a permit is reviewed and away from the National Environmental Policy Act.
3. Ensure individuals filing suit against an approved authorization or permit for a project file suit within 30 days, are individuals directly impacted by the project, and focus on direct and tangible harms not considered in the initial authorization process.
4. Establish that any claim filed should occur in the federal district court in which the project is located or, if the project intersects with multiple court districts, in the district in which the largest financial investment for the project is made.
5. Create a Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC)-maintained database for claims that have not been adjudicated within 90 days of filing.
6. Ensure any remand or vacatur issued by the court can be addressed in a timely manner of the court decision with a final remediation plan prepared by FPISC through a mediation process between the agency of jurisdiction and the project developer.
7. Eliminate the ability to file a new suit based on the final FPISC remediation plan.
U.S. Senators Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana; Steve Daines, R-Montana; and Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, joined in introducing the judicial reform legislation, which is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute and ClearPath, according to a news release from Crapo’s office.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Environment and Regulatory Affairs Vice President Chad Whiteman said in a news release from Cassidy’s office that the bill will help increase certainty in the permitting process and strengthen private sector investment to build infrastructure and the economy.
“The current process allows project opponents to continuously block projects, delaying completion even after projects have received federal authorization to proceed,” Whiteman said. “Project developers and financers must have more certainty regarding the scope and timeline for project reviews, including any related judicial review.”
Chris Eyler, executive director of the Northwest Region in the Congressional and Public Affairs Division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a speech at an October Campbell County Chamber of Commerce event that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is prioritizing permitting reform this year.
Many infrastructure projects currently take an average of seven years to acquire all the federal permits they need, but getting the Fiscal Responsibility Act passed helped. That act requires approval within two or three years of permits required to satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act.
The National Environmental Policy Act is supposed to ensure that the government properly considers the environment when airports, buildings, military complexes, highways, parkland purchases and other federal activities are proposed, according to the EPA.