On August 2, 2022, Fred Wagner was quoted in Inside EPA on Senate Democrats’ push to pass a permitting overhaul bill. According to the article, reaction to the provisions in the permitting framework are mixed, with environmental groups decrying pro-fossil fuel measures, while some Democratic lawmakers and others suggest they can live with them.
The Democratic agreement on permitting, which top congressional leaders reached with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to help secure his support for the Senate’s major climate spending bill, would require prioritizing a “balance” of fossil and renewable energy projects, mandate the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, set a two-year deadline for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews for major projects, and include new Clean Water Act (CWA) section 401 parameters for states, among other provisions.
Wagner says the permitting bill framework does not contain much new for NEPA, other than potentially giving more authority to the “lead agency.” He has long called for shortened deadlines to sue over NEPA reviews and finds it “interesting” that it features CWA 401 updates as EPA is in the middle of a rule on that issue.
Meanwhile, Wagner says that while nobody can guarantee the permitting bill’s passage, “the odds of something like this passing are pretty good,” given momentum that has been building and the compromises being made. He also questions how this will affect CEQ’s “phase 2” NEPA rule that is supposed to be proposed this summer. “It would make sense, if the administration were as optimistic as I am . . . that they’d want to see what comes out of the legislative process before they publish a phase 2 rule.”