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API calls on Biden Administration to rescind NEPA guidance

The American Petroleum Institute (API) today urged the Biden administration to address the broken permitting process that is halting US energy development. In a comment letter submitted to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), API Director of Climate and ESG Policy Jennifer Stewart outlined the harmful provisions of CEQ’s Interim Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change under the National Environmental Policy Act. The letter also detailed how this guidance could further delay the development of critical energy projects. 

“API shares the Biden administration’s goal of reducing GHG emissions across the economy and specifically from the production, transportation and use of energy resources. We also share the administration’s goal of permitting reform to reduce American’s energy bills, promote energy security for the US and our allies, and boost our ability to build energy projects. However, we do not believe that the Interim Guidance helps agencies advance these goals in a lawful or effective manner,” Ms Stewart said.

In the comments, API outlined the many concerning provisions of CEQ’s guidance, including the duplication and disregard of other agencies’ NEPA reviews and GHG regulations, which could result in significant delays in agency processing time and compromise the US energy supply and the deployment of lower-carbon solutions.

“Absent reasonable improvements to agencies’ NEPA permitting processes, this Administration’s efforts to invest trillions of dollars in infrastructure improvements and environmentally beneficial projects may be suppressed or significantly delayed,” Ms Stewart said. “As currently drafted, the Interim Guidance will perpetuate and exacerbate the undue delay, complexity and inconsistency that have been the unfortunate hallmarks of NEPA reviews for decades, highlighting the need for comprehensive permitting reform.”

Under the current NEPA process, the average environmental impact statement takes approximately 4.5 years to complete, and 25% of completed impact statements took more than six years. Recent studies have shown that $157 billion in energy investment is waiting in the NEPA pipeline, and a two-year NEPA review time limit could spur $67 billion in energy investment. 

“The Interim Guidance reveals the futility of attempting to establish broad national energy policies through unenduring agency guidance that changes from presidential administration to administration, undermining the certainty that project developers need to make significant capital investments in energy projects,” Ms Stewart said. “API will continue to work across industry sectors and political parties to achieve meaningful and enduring permitting reform in Congress.”

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