Chamber of Commerce: Red tape is costing green jobs
By Thomas J. Donohue
A combination of federal, state, and local regulatory red tape is preventing American businesses from creating nearly 2 million new green energy jobs and generating more than a trillion dollars in economic output. Is that acceptable with 8.9% unemployment and a struggling economy? Or is there a better way?
By the estimates from a study released Thursday by TeleNomic research, 351 job-creating projects promoting energy across the country are currently snarled by a broken permitting process and by a regulatory system that fails to ensure timely reviews and actions.
For example, the Green Path North was a proposed 85-mile-long "green" power transmission line that would have brought renewable electricity from inland California to Los Angeles. A wide range of national and local environmental activist groups teamed up to force seven route and capacity revisions before the project was abandoned due to the enormous costs in fighting this opposition.
In Ohio, the Black Fork Wind Farm was proposed to be built near Vernon back in 2007. Unfortunately, the project is constantly being challenged by activist groups concerned about property values. At peak generation, Black Fork Wind Farm would generate 201.6 megawatts of energy.
Spreading the pain
These states are hardly the only ones suffering economically from these regulatory burdens. The U.S. Chamber has identified 351 energy projects across the country that have been stalled by legal and regulatory roadblocks. If allowed to go forward, they could produce an estimated $1.1 trillion boost to the economy and create millions of new jobs.
The flawed regulatory system is also open to manipulation. Some environmental activists and their allies — who should be the strongest "green" energy supporters of all — are using every resource at their disposal to block, delay, or cancel clean energy projects. They have organized local opposition, changed zoning laws, opposed permits, filed lawsuits, and bled projects dry of their financing. Call it "green tape" bureaucracy. Their efforts are undermining job creation and slowing the adoption of environmentally friendly energy technologies. They want the benefits of clean energy only if it doesn't inconvenience anyone in any way.
Lawmakers and the American public must recognize that our broken permitting process and extreme groups are denying projects across the country the opportunity to be fairly considered on their merits.
To be clear, we are not saying that ill-conceived projects should be allowed to move forward. Rather, all projects should be given a fair chance to prove their worth in the market within a reasonable period of time. And if a project is worthy, it should receive a permit.
Remove the obstacles
The discussion is beginning in Washington about improving the regulatory process and restoring some much-needed balance. What is urgently needed now is a careful consideration of how all these permitting obstacles, uncertainties, and time delays can be addressed to speed up the processing, approval decisions, and development of many of the job-creating projects whose progress has so far been denied. Private investors and developers are prepared to fund, build, and operate energy projects that could materially increase GDP and create many jobs — but only if policymakers remove obstacles.
No one objects to a fair and timely process whereby projects are examined and the affected communities can be heard. But reasonableness and common sense must carry the day. The simple truth is that it takes too long to build almost anything in our country today — even clean, green, and renewable energy resources that create jobs, enhance our energy security, and improve our environment.
It's time for change.
Thomas J. Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation.