Took some time recently to do a "deep dive" into what different groups are proposing around federal permitting reform, since this seems to be one of the energy policy "hot topics" of 2023. A 🧵 on common themes I observed...
I reviewed reports from orgs including @BPC_Bipartisan, @AspenInstitute, @BrookingsInst and @WorldResources as well as testimonies from @NRDC, @weact4ej, and @CleanEnergyGrid from last week's @EPWCmte hearing. Links at end of thread.
Almost everyone calls for more coordinated & streamlined federal permitting process. This includes:
1) single lead agency
2) single permitting plan and timetable w/ clear responsibilities and deadlines
3) single environmental review
4) agencies work concurrently, not in series
Existing systems were mentioned as examples of process improvements that should be scaled up, including:
1) programmatic EISs
2) categorical exemptions
3) Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (FPISC) and its Federal Permitting Dashboard
4) FAST-41 process
Funding is key, not only for enough staffing/resources to federal agencies doing the permitting but also for states to strengthen their permitting processes and align them with federal ones (federal-state alignment was also a common theme through things such as MOUs).
Early, proactive community involvement was another recurring theme. I loved this quote from @CsmithhayesREAL: "Mitigation beats litigation every time." Can we somehow codify community engagement best practices at a federal level?
NEPA reform is most contentious. @danagleeson provided great framing in the EPW hearing about how NEPA is seen as the "people's law." Any page, time, or litigation limits are seen as restrictive. If we adopt any of these (big if), we must pair them with good community engagement.
Transmission was the most common "topic area" to be mentioned as what needs to be reformed. Specific reforms include "bright line" siting authority for FERC for lines of a certain size/length and multi-benefit cost allocation methodologies.
Finally, there were some more "visionary" proposals that I really enjoyed seeing.

1) Proactively mapping (state and federal) "go-to" zones for renewables (wind, solar) and transmission (corridors) AND then creating programmatic EISs for these regions (i.e., scaling TX's CREZ up)
2) Carrots (or sticks) for states to align their permitting processes with the feds. Carrot would be competitive grants. Stick would be preventing them from accessing IRA/IIJA funds.
3) Giving states environmental review process (rather than feds under NEPA) as long as states have environmental laws that are as stringent as, if not more stringent than, NEPA
4) Funding for neutral arbiter-led community engagement around contentious projects (could a federal agency lead this type of program?)
5) Funding for marginalized communities to actively engage in the process (e.g., assistance with navigating the process, learning about the project, potentially litigating?)
Overall, it seems like the federal government can lead on federal permitting streamlining/staffing and then work with states through MOUs or grants to incentivize better state permitting processes and fed-state coordination. Through it all, proactive community engagement is key.
Would love to hear where folks' heads are at on this. What does the environmental community need to push for in permitting reform? Where do we draw the line and say "no"? What are concrete steps forward through existing institutions?
Links to studies I looked at

1) @BPC_Bipartisan's "Smarter, Cleaner, Faster Infrastructure Task Force Policy Recommendations" (2021)
2) @BrookingsInst's "How to Reform Federal Permitting to Accelerate Clean Energy Infrastructure: A Nonpartisan Way Forward" (2023)
4) @WorldResources's "US Clean Energy Goals Hinge on Faster Permitting" blog post (Feb 2023)
5) @EPWCmte's April 26, 2023 hearing on permitting reform, ft. testimonies from @NRDC, @weact4ej, and @CleanEnergyGrid
6) @NRDC's Smart from the Start siting principles are a great model to look at in general (this blog post from 2019 is a good overview)
If you have other resources to add on permitting reform for the clean energy transition, please share!
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