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Legislators Propose Reversal of Biden's Energy Permit Regulations

 May 9, 2024

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have taken issue with new rules under the Biden administration.

On Wednesday, a significant political move was made as Senate Energy Committee Chair Joe Manchin, along with Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Garret Graves, introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution challenging the Biden administration’s modifications to the energy permitting rules under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as The Hill reports.

Understanding the Implications of New NEPA Rules

The changes, enacted by the current administration, reverse the regulations set during the Trump era, which had introduced more stringent requirements for public comments on projects.

This revision by the Biden team simplifies the process, particularly emphasizing categorical exclusions -- the quickest method under NEPA for environmental review.

Manchin has been a pivotal figure in advocating for an overhaul of the permitting process, previously securing promises for permitting reforms in exchange for his support of the Inflation Reduction Act.

The CRA is a legislative tool that allows Congress to nullify rules established by the executive branch with just a simple majority vote. In this context, it represents a direct challenge to the executive's regulatory agenda.

Congressional Dynamics and Previous Attempts

Previously, similar CRA resolutions have been employed against various environmental and energy rules introduced by the Biden administration, all of which were ultimately vetoed by President Biden. This pattern highlights the ongoing struggle between the legislative and executive branches over regulatory control.

Manchin’s backing of this resolution marks another instance where he has crossed party lines, reflecting his often-centrist stance on energy and environmental issues.

The new rules have been criticized for allegedly favoring certain groups and not providing a balanced approach to all types of energy projects. Concerns have been raised about the potential for these rules to enable extended page limits in environmental reviews and failing to address the problem of frivolous litigation, which can delay projects.

Bipartisan Efforts and Political Reactions

Manchin expressed strong opposition to the Biden administration's approach, stating that it undermines a previously agreed bipartisan fiscal act. He criticized the new rule for increasing costs and bureaucratic hurdles for critical projects, which he believes are essential for national security and prosperity but are not favored by what he terms the "radical left."

Graves echoed these sentiments, pointing out flaws in the rule's implementation. He criticized the rule for its biased definitions and loopholes that could potentially prolong project reviews and do little to prevent unnecessary legal delays.

The resolution introduced by these lawmakers represents a significant effort to shape the country's energy policy landscape, reflecting broader political dynamics and debates over environmental governance.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Environmental Policy

The fate of this CRA resolution, like others before it, will depend on the dynamics within Congress and the subsequent response by the president. Should it pass, it would mark a notable shift in the administration's approach to environmental regulation.

As the debate continues, stakeholders from various sectors are watching closely, understanding that the outcome could significantly impact how environmental reviews are conducted and how quickly energy projects can move forward.

The bipartisan nature of the resolution, with support from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, underscores the complex interplay of politics and policy in the realm of energy and environmental regulation.

Conclusion: A Summary of Key Points

In conclusion, the proposed CRA resolution by Sens. Manchin and Sullivan, along with Rep. Graves, aims to repeal changes to NEPA that were recently introduced by the Biden administration.

These changes had undone previous rules that added layers to the public comment process and established quicker pathways for environmental review.

The resolution highlights ongoing political debates and the struggle for balance in regulatory approaches to environmental and energy projects.