Modernize Permitting

We need to build cleaner, faster. Clean energy and grid modernization present tremendous economic opportunities, but burdensome and outdated regulations mean that new projects take five years on average to come online.

We have to move faster by enacting common sense reforms to the permitting process.

Upgraded transmission and new energy projects all start with a permit

Why do we need to build cleaner faster?

The largest construction effort in U.S. history. Any transition to a clean energy economy will require thousands of miles of upgraded transmission lines, new power plants, dozens of new major pipelines carrying clean hydrogen and captured carbon dioxide, and new mines for iron, critical minerals, uranium and many other commodities.

U.S. Clean Electricity Generation in 2020 vs One Projected 2050 Net Zero Scenario

2050 net-zero scenario based on the E+RE- scenario of the Princeton Net Zero America Project

Modernize the permitting process. Nobody argues the need to protect the environment, but it shouldn’t take 5 years on average to site a solar field, a wind farm or a natural gas plant with CCS. We can be thorough and cut approval periods by more than half.

Burdensome NEPA Process Timeline

Source: Adapted from MoDOT

Challenges

Solutions

Challenge: It takes 5 years on average to site a solar field, a wind farm or a natural gas plant with CCS.

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Solution: Fast track low impact projects. Projects that are clearly so good for the climate and impact their local environment so little shouldn’t need to go through the same long, expensive permitting process as everything else. We should agree what those types of projects are and grant them automatic permits so long as they comply with other laws.

Challenge: The current permitting process doesn’t prioritize clean energy.

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Solution: Speed up reviews of essential protections. Other classes of projects may be really good for reducing emissions, but still have some local environmental impacts to consider. These projects should go to the front of the permitting line, and benefit from accelerated decision timelines to get to a “yes” or “no” decision within 2 years.

Challenge: Frivolous litigation bogs down the system and slows progress.

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Solution: Limit legal action to under one year. The lawsuits that often come with permitting disputes can further delay timelines, sometimes by more than a decade. This makes building many clean energy projects virtually impossible. We can also greatly accelerate legal reviews with fast timelines, like in the Department of Defense, and by sending cases straight to higher courts for final decisions.