Business groups, automakers call for fix to 'broken' permitting system

Riley Beggin, The Detroit News on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of business groups, including major automakers, signed on to a letter led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Monday urging Congress to reduce bottlenecks for companies starting energy and infrastructure projects.

So-called permitting reform is one of the few policy areas in which Republicans and Democrats agree change is necessary, given the 4.5 to 7.5-year timeline for new projects to receive federal permits and the increasing mineral demands of the clean energy economy. However, the two parties rarely agree on which policy to pass to fix the issue.

The Chamber's letter comes as the U.S. House prepares this week to take up a Republican-led energy package that would include some such reforms, including provisions that would shorten timelines for environmental reviews and limit the window for legal challenges to permitting decisions.

The GOP package faces an uphill battle in the Democrat-led Senate, with the exception of the permitting reform proposals, which could be provide the starting point for a bipartisan compromise.

The Chamber's letter urged Congress to find a policy they can agree upon to improve the country's permitting processes before the end of the summer.

Nearly 350 groups signed on, including the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents most major automakers selling vehicles in the United States. Nine Michigan business groups also signed on, including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Detroit Regional Chamber.

"Public and private sector infrastructure projects will improve our economy and the lives of millions of Americans," they wrote in the letter.

They added that Improvements in transportation infrastructure, energy production and transmission projects, expanded internet access, drinking water systems and domestic production of critical minerals can improve the country's economy, qualify of life and carbon footprint.

"But America cannot accomplish any of this if the outdated, inefficient, and unpredictable permitting process is not improved."


The groups called upon Congress to find solutions to fix the "broken" permitting system that would offer predictable timelines, efficient reviews and transparent milestones and welcome input from "stakeholders."

"Our permitting system is fundamentally broken, and it is delaying the investments that we desperately need in energy, transportation, broadband, technology and countless other sectors," said Neil Bradley, the Chamber's Chief Policy Officer, in a statement. "It should never take longer to get a permit than it does to build a project, and it is long past time for Congress to act."

Members of the House Rules Committee meet Monday to determine which amendments will be included in the GOP energy package dubbed the Lower Energy Costs Act. It is expected to advance throughout the week.

Democrats have been wary of anything they perceive as a threat to the National Environmental Policy Act, an environmental law that requires public comment and a comprehensive analysis of environmental impacts of a proposed project.

Leaders in the auto industry have cited permitting reform as one of the few areas in which legislative progress could happen this year, given the tight political margins in both chambers.

Republicans have long desired changes to the process they say unnecessarily impedes economic growth. Many Democrats have also said changes are needed in order to facilitate clean energy projects that could help slow climate change.

Last year, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, attempted to reform federal permitting in exchange for his stamp of approval on the Inflation Reduction Act, Democrats' sweeping climate and social policy bill that Manchin had a powerful voice in shaping. That failed after facing opposition from dozens of his more liberal colleagues, who dubbed it a "dirty deal" that would weaken NEPA.

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