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Exploring NEPA Reforms Needed to Unlock Clean Energy Infrastructure

Recent years have seen increased recognition of the importance of permitting reform to accelerate the implementation of clean energy and infrastructure projects. The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 (FRA) makes meaningful progress toward reform in several areas, including by establishing timelines for federal permits, encouraging agencies to coordinate their reviews, clarifying which projects are not subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and promoting expanded use of programmatic reviews and categorical exclusions.

These provisions are an important step in the right direction but additional changes to the federal permitting process are needed to enable more rapid deployment of clean energy technologies and advance critical national goals in terms of cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, reducing energy costs, improving grid reliability, and enhancing energy and supply chain security.

In July 2023, the Bipartisan Policy Center convened the fourth in a series of private roundtables on the topic of permitting reforms. The roundtable brought together experts from across the political spectrum to explore a menu of policy options that build on reforms in the FRA with the aim of further streamlining NEPA reviews and federal permitting processes. Roundtable participants sought to identify specific additional reforms that are still needed to accelerate deployment and to weigh the pros and cons of a variety of specific policy proposals.

BPC’s previous permitting roundtables covered the following topics; each roundtable generated a policy brief that captures highlights from the discussion:

  1. Public Engagement Roundtable
  2. Permitting Linear Infrastructure Roundtable (i.e., transmission and pipelines)
  3. Judicial Review Roundtable

The remainder of this brief summarizes perspectives and insights from the July 2023 roundtable about NEPA reform options that were not included in the FRA but that merit further policy consideration.

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