Bloomberg Law examines the Department of Energy's recent establishment of a 2-year regulatory review process, quoting Brian Turner's perspective on the importance of the federal government's involvement in the nation's transition to a 100% clean energy economy.
Electric transmission developers seeking individual permits from multiple federal agencies can soon hold the government accountable, all the way up to the president, for leading a single environmental review process capped at no more than two years.
The Energy Department’s agreement with eight other agencies and offices, finalized this month, is a long-sought move under 18-year-old legal authority that promises to speed clean energy deployment, according to energy and grid analysts.
The deadlines are seen as a short-term regulatory tool as the Biden administration and Congress weigh using federal authority to approve transmission line projects altogether, arguing delays hamper renewable energy and leave the grid vulnerable to power outages and price spikes.
“This isn’t a silver bullet, but getting the federal government to work in a coordinated fashion—in a transparent fashion—with some real authority behind it, will help,” said Brian Turner, regulatory director of Western states for Advanced Energy United, a trade association of clean energy companies that include transmission developers.
The multi-agency memorandum of understanding pledges to stick to the two-year environmental review deadlines. It establishes a single point of contact at each agency and a process that allows project applicants and states to appeal any delayed or denied permits to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget, and, eventually, the president.
Signatory agencies also include the departments of Interior, Agriculture, Defense, and Commerce; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council.
The plan requires that applicants participate in a pre-application process, which includes filing resource reports and community engagement plans prior to submitting a formal application.
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