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Sommers: Congress Has Opportunity to Fix Outdated Permitting Process

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Permitting reform legislation should be based on several key elements: Transparency and predictability, timeliness and efficiency, and judicial durability.

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2023 — The American Petroleum Institute (API) today released the following statement from API President and CEO Mike Sommers urging policymakers in Washington to continue their vital work to reform and improve America’s permitting process, which is currently hampering billions of dollars of infrastructure development, including critical energy projects:

“Congress has a unique opportunity to fix America’s broken permitting process. Modernizing our permitting process will speed up approvals, create American jobs, and enable the faster movement of energy where it is needed most. We will continue to work with policymakers on real solutions that will modernize our infrastructure and benefit all Americans.”

In recent years, at least 10 major energy infrastructure projects have been cancelled or are at risk of cancellation due to delayed and uncertain permitting processes. These projects, which represent $34 billion in capital investment, were delayed an average of 7.5 years. To fully harness the power of American energy, support consumers, and protect the environment, permitting reform legislation should be based on several key elements: transparency and predictability, timeliness and efficiency, and judicial durability.

NEPA: The delays to get infrastructure projects permitted are inconsistent and extensive. Getting an infrastructure project through a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review is just one hurdle among many that must be cleared now takes an average of 4.5 years. These routine delays, coupled with a host of other permits needed for a project, can discourage financial investments and subject sorely needed projects to abusive litigation caused by the ambiguity of the statute, which can lead to their cancellation.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401: The CWA Section 401 certification process has become a common and effective means to block energy and other infrastructure projects as states have exploited ambiguities in the statute to take an expansive view of their authority to delay or deny project certifications. Section 401 reviews should be limited to water quality impacts from the discharge only, and not from the activity as a whole. The review process should be time limited.

Judicial Reform: Judicial reform is necessary to ensure the nation’s energy security and to meet global energy needs. Historically, major new or expansion project permits are almost always challenged as perfunctory procedure by opponents of energy projects, delaying projects for years, and increasing costs into the billions of dollars.

API represents all segments of America’s natural gas and oil industry, which supports more than 11 million U.S. jobs and is backed by a growing grassroots movement of millions of Americans. Our approximately 600 members produce, process and distribute the majority of the nation’s energy, and participate in API Energy Excellence®, which is accelerating environmental and safety progress by fostering new technologies and transparent reporting. API was formed in 1919 as a standards-setting organization and has developed more than 800 standards to enhance operational and environmental safety, efficiency and sustainability.


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