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House Republicans Advocate for Greater Clean Energy Opportunities

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 23, 2021 -

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and House Select Committee on Climate Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-La.) led a forum titled "Unlocking Clean Energy Opportunities."

"Our country’s current permitting and regulatory structure handicaps resource development across the board," Westerman said. "The energy and mineral development sectors offer some particularly striking examples of how overregulation prevents progress, even in areas that should have bipartisan support, such as renewable energy development. My friends on the other side of the aisle say they are supporters of alternative energy, and the administration has put in some very ambitious goals to try to reach net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. If this is truly the goal, then I am puzzled why my colleagues have made no attempts to make renewable energy development easier, and have resisted attempts from Republican members of my committee to do so. In order to see these ideas come to fruition in a meaningful way, the first step is to remove unnecessary and sometimes duplicative obstacles for developers and allow market forces and American ingenuity to work."

"We can all agree that investment in our nation’s energy infrastructure is important – whether it’s building new nuclear power plants, performing much-needed maintenance on our hydroelectric dams, or helping traditional energy deploy new, cleaner technologies," Newhouse said. "The United States has the opportunity, alongside the private sector, to unleash American clean energy innovation, achieve energy independence, and continue leading the world in clean energy production. If our country is serious about meeting our carbon-free and clean energy goals, we need a better, more streamlined permitting process that actually allows our energy sector to continue their advancements. Western Caucus members have practical and realistic solutions to advance clean energy infrastructure, and we will continue working to unlock clean energy opportunities."

The panel of Republican members heard from five witnesses during the forum:

Philip Rossetti, resident senior fellow, R Street Institute
Xan Fishman, energy policy and carbon management director, Bipartisan Policy Center
Abigail Wulf, critical minerals strategy director, Securing America's Future Energy
Alex Herrgott, president and CEO, The Permitting Institute
Paul Goranson, CEO, enCore Energy

"It’s important for us to think about the fundamental role that we want to see with regulation and permitting and how that coincides with our free market economy," Rosetti said. "Which is that these regulations are supposed to preserve the environment, address externalities and address genuine market failures when they arise. But they can’t be a substitute for the role of the market in stimulating private sector investment, producing new solutions and especially producing solutions that are going to be taken up globally. In that sense, environmental regulatory reform should always be focused on capturing real benefit where it arises, but also ensuring that we are actually preserving a market competition environment that is going to bring about the very solutions we need to see deploy globally."

"We all want an efficient permitting process that protects our environment but doesn’t unnecessarily delay or block good projects," Fishman said. "So the question at hand is how do we efficiently review and approve the projects that will reduce emissions, improve quality of life, grow our economy and create jobs while making sure we don’t approve projects that will pollute our environment or degrade quality of life for communities nearby? Permitting reform tends to be a thorny political issue, but there are two things that are clear: 1. There is bipartisan support for improving the current system. 2. Improving our permitting system will provide a multitude of benefits, each of which worth pursuing on its own, and in conjunction make clear exactly why there is so much upside to making these improvements."

"It is important that new mines undergo a thorough environmental review and operate in an environmentally responsible manner, complying with all federal and state environmental requirements," Wulf said. "However, the permitting process currently averages between seven and 10 years for new projects in the United States. Delayed permitting undermines the economics of domestic mineral production by reducing the value of new mines. In fact, the United States’ share of global investment in mining has fallen by half over the past two decades. It takes roughly two years in Canada and Australia to permit new mines – two nations with strong environmental guidelines similar to the National Environmental Policy Act, the law that governs the review process in the United States. This is reflected in the disparity in mining investment, with Canada and Australia, each attracting approximately three times as much investment as the United States in recent years."

"There is broad bipartisan agreement that America must modernize its infrastructure," Herrgott said. "But before it can do that, all stakeholders must first recognize and address the outdated, sclerotic federal permitting process as it currently exists. To 'build back better' we must first be able to build. Many otherwise 'shovel-ready' infrastructure projects get snarled for years in bureaucratic gridlock. Developers routinely find themselves navigating environmental reviews that require up to 62 authorizations spread across 13 federal agencies. One ongoing example includes a $3 billion investment in a clean energy transmission line that began the permitting process more than a decade ago. The project underwent seven years of review and was finally deemed 'complete' by the federal government four years ago. However, it is now entangled in court proceedings because one of those 49 participating agencies pursued a separate programmatic workflow that renders the prior approval for this project moot. That is $3 billion in clean energy delayed for more than 10 years because one hand did not know what the other was doing – within the same federal agency."

"When I started my career, the U.S. was the world’s leader in uranium production, employing over 20,000 workers and supplying nearly all our domestic nuclear fuel needs," Goranson said. "At this time, the United States was also a net exporter of uranium. Today, the industry employs less than 300 workers and is on the brink of collapse. Meanwhile the U.S. imports nearly 100 percent of the uranium needed to fuel our nuclear fleet, which represents over 50 percent of America’s clean energy generation and one-fifth of the electrical grid. Almost half of the imported uranium comes from state-owned enterprises in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, along with Chinese state-owned mines in Africa. Uranium is the only fuel for nuclear power generation, and if the U.S. is serious about meeting the administration’s stated clean energy objectives, the existing nuclear fleet needs to continue operating. It is vital that a secure nuclear supply chain, with a strong domestic industrial base, is maintained to keep the nuclear fleet operating efficiently."

Watch the full forum here.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-225-2761

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