Managing Director of Communications and Media, U.S. Chamber Global Energy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
April 25, 2023
On Tuesday, April 18, the U.S. Chamber hosted a gathering of influential voices in policy and business to elevate the critical need to reform America’s outdated permitting process—an endeavor at the core of our Permit America to Build initiative.
Upon arrival, attendees entered a “maze” built adjacent to the event, where they had to navigate through several “roadblocks” highlighting the permitting challenges across various industries.
A call-to-action video from Chamber President and CEO Suzanne Clark and welcoming remarks from Chamber Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley set an enthusiastic and optimistic tone for getting permitting reform accomplished this year.
The Current State of the Permitting Process
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)—Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the author of a comprehensive permitting reform bill—built on that enthusiasm and the need for bipartisan compromise to achieve such reform, but not without first spelling out the challenges created by the current process.
“Now we have all these great expectations. We’ve got a lot of money; we’ve got a lot of need. But we can’t build. I mean, some of the timelines that we see for highway projects, for energy projects, for water projects. I thought it was interesting that Suzanne said in her video that sometimes it takes longer to permit than actually to build. That’s really discouraging,” she said.
This sentiment was also expressed by several other speakers. Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association explained that it becomes all the more difficult to close the digital divide “when you build in some remote areas, particularly in the northern part of the United States, [and] you might miss a build season by the time the permit actually comes through.”
While this has become the unfortunate reality of the American permitting process, the goal of the “Permit America to Build” initiative is to generate both awareness and action for meaningful, durable reform. “I am so excited about what the U.S. Chamber is doing to pull together an incredible coalition – an incredible both-sides-of-the-aisle, all spectrums of thought – to really permit America to build,” said Capito.
Realizing Clean Energy’s Potential Through Permitting Reform
Among the industries represented at the event was clean energy. Renewable projects such as solar and wind face the same kind of permitting delays as roads, bridges and other infrastructure. In addition, transmission lines are essential to fully realize the potential of clean energy, yet they are among the infrastructure projects facing the longest delays.
American Clean Power CEO Jason Grumet and AES Clean Energy President Leo Moreno discussed the urgency for reform and the need to take a broad approach.
“We are unleashing this clean energy revolution, things are moving faster than ever before, and not nearly fast enough…We can actually see the future we want, we have created the federal framework, we have the technology, we have the workforce—what we don't have is a regulatory system that permits success,” said Grumet.
Added Moreno: “You will need carbon capture, you will need green fuels, and you will need gas. So, it’s understanding that a solution that leads to affordability, reliability and sustainability is an all-of-the-above solution.”
The clean energy message was echoed by Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA).
“Permitting in the United States is an issue across all clean-energy technologies. A new report found that permitting timelines have doubled since the 1970s, and nearly half of all clean energy projects are delayed in the permitting process, compared to just 15% for fossil fuels.”
Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told the Chamber audience that his committee will hold a pair of hearings on permitting reform, including an April 26th hearing at which the Chamber’s Global Energy Institute President Marty Durbin will testify.
A National Security Imperative
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, noted how permitting delays threaten the important role the U.S. plays in providing energy to allies such as Europe in the wake of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Energy security is national security. You cannot become and maintain the status that we have as far as the superpower of the world and not have reliable energy security. In order to get energy security, we have to be able to do things.”
Manchin further punctuated this urgency by saying that “if we don’t get our act together as quickly as we can, it’s going to be a horrible situation.” He added that “if we can’t supply [allies], they’ll go somewhere else, and that’s what we don’t want. The thing that keeps us the superpower of the world is having our allies with us, and you can’t be the superpower of the world and not be able to take care of your allies and keep us all together.”
Maximizing Resources to Bolster Efficiency
Other speakers—including Cary Davis, Vice President and General Counsel for the American Association of Port Authorities, Tom Smith, Executive Director of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and Anne Bradbury, President and CEO of American Exploration and Production Council— focused on how permitting reform will allow their industries to invest.
Davis explained that while unprecedented funding opportunities are available, involved parties get “hamstrung” when it comes to putting the funding to work. Smith also acknowledged this issue and emphasized the need “to maximize efficiency when implementing this investment” and “do it in a way that’s sustainable, resilient.”
Above all, Smith noted that taxpayers should be paying attention to permitting reform efforts, especially because “when we waste during that process, it costs everybody money—including taxpayers.”
Despite the challenges ahead, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree that now is the time to tackle permitting reform. As the Chamber’s Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley said, “The real-world implications for our families and businesses…and the ability to seize on the opportunity of a rare moment of bipartisan agreement really is the right recipe” to get much-need permitting reform done.
To watch additional highlights from the event, click here.
Follow the progress of the Permit America to Build campaign here.
About the authors
Matt Letourneau is managing director of communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute (GEI). He coordinates external communications and strategy and serves as a spokesman to media on energy and environmental issues for the Chamber.