Viewpoint: Energy security requires collaboration
Public and private stakeholders must work together on energy policy.
Policy priorities in Washington are impacting the energy industry. The Biden administration took office with the promise of accelerating a transition to renewable energy technologies. While the last three years have shown the transition cannot — and should not — be rushed, it also has illustrated that an all-of-the-above strategy to energy is the most secure option for our future. However, the direction we approach this will require collaboration on all levels of the government, as well as on the ground with constituents.
From the COVID pandemic to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, our energy markets have experienced significant volatility. This harsh reality has forced nations across the globe, especially our allies in Europe, to reassess their energy security, diversity, and supply chains. The same can be said for the United States of America.
Traditional energy infrastructure projects, such as pipelines, coupled with renewable projects like wind farms, offer a diversity of energy options needed to build up and maintain our security. However, policy shortcomings and weaponized lawfare have made it more difficult to realize these goals. Companies that provide the expertise and capital for many of these types of infrastructure projects have encountered roadblocks in the form of prolonged environmental reviews and a weaponized National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Take the Inflation Reduction Act for example. Included in the legislation are credits for clean energy projects — a key aspect of the bill that was touted as a significant step towards decarbonizing the grid. However, the renewables industry is facing a similar issue with the lengthy permitting process that many traditional energy projects have encountered. If the administration wants to begin to utilize the monies in the IRA, then compromise needs to be made on the permitting process currently upholding many projects. Collaboration and discussion between private and public sector stakeholders is an important part of that process.
Last week, I had the privilege to participate in the Greater North Dakota Chamber’s infrastructure week webinar series. Speaking with North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer, Senator John Hoeven and Representative Kelly Armstrong, the discussion included the congressmen’s thoughts on how to reform the permitting process hamstringing our energy sector, the vital role traditional fuels such as natural gas play in our national security, and other efforts lawmakers can take to help energy companies lower costs and strengthen our energy independence.
Sen. Cramer was optimistic that an agreement on permitting reform could be reached in conjunction with the debt ceiling negotiation. He specifically mentioned that many of his colleagues on the left “have come to the realization” that “siting offshore wind farm is just as hard as siting an offshore oil rig and platform,” due to regulatory red tape. Looking ahead to potential negotiations, Sen. Cramer believes that modest proposals such as “timelines for permitting and for environmental impact statements” and “judicial reforms” to limit perpetual lawfare that can be applied to renewable projects, as well as fossil fuel projects, is an appropriate first step.
Closing out conversation, Sen. Cramer gave some advice on how we all can drive Congress to solutions: events like infrastructure week with the Greater North Dakota Chamber. Engaging with groups like the GNDC, an organization that can represent the interests of its constituents, can be an impactful opportunity to find common ground. The webinar provided the opportunity for these Congressmen’s constituents to hear directly from them, stay engaged, keep the lawmakers informed, and “hold them accountable” as Sen. Cramer mentioned.
In search of permitting reform, Sen. Cramer recently joined Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in heading the Revitalizing the Economy by Simplifying Timelines and Assuring Regulatory Transparency (RESTART) Act. The legislation would narrow NEPA’s scope by implementing strict deadlines for agencies to complete the environmental assessment and impact statement processes, as well as impose a time limit to prevent delay-to-die legal battles by requiring courts to process NEPA challenges and issue judgments within 180 days.
The Greater North Dakota Chamber event exemplifies the necessity of collaboration between public and private stakeholders when it comes to energy policy. As the last few years have shown, the ability to be energy independent directly affects the national security of a country. A coherent and symbiotic domestic energy policy is necessary for all sectors of the industry to work together towards supporting our energy future and lowering costs for Americans.
Craig Stevens is the former senior adviser to U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman.