An Analysis of the Lower Energy Costs Act
The nation’s most byzantine and costly regulatory law may very well be the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the regulations that flow from it. The NEPA approval process peaked at an average of just over five years in 2016–over 50 percent longer than just six years earlier–and has remained unacceptably high since. One study by R Street scholar Philip Rossetti determined that:
Delayed infrastructure deployment can result in economic impacts from delayed productivity, as well as reduced incentives for infrastructure investment. Further, from an environmental perspective, NEPA is increasingly becoming an involuntary impediment to clean energy and conservation-related projects. This is especially problematic given that this analysis finds 42 percent of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) active NEPA projects are related to clean energy, transmission or conservation, while only 15 percent of the DOE’s projects are related to fossil fuel — most of which were for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exports that typically displace foreign coal.
Section 10004 has the potential to spur new cross-border projects that could decrease greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs for Americans, and increase grid reliability. The streamlined approval process for new cross-border transmission projects could become the catalyst for the delivery of nuclear, wind and solar, and hydroelectric power from Canada or Mexico. Likewise, as the United States scales up investment in these technologies and resolves its energy challenges, these changes could ease the process by which the United States exports low-carbon power to its neighbors, thereby helping those countries lower their costs and emissions. Reducing the existing regulatory barriers can ultimately pave the way for an abundance of low carbon, reliable energy in North America. As R Street’s Rossetti observes:
Delays in completion of clean energy projects due to NEPA requirements can result in increased emissions and environmental harms. By contrast, policies that improve NEPA timelines can have environmental as well as economic benefits.”