Are permitting reform talks under threat?

The dispute is over a proposal from the White House Council on Environmental Quality on how to implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970. 


“There is no way Congress will give this Administration new laws to invent imaginary authorities if they continue to operate in bad faith in the implementation of the Fiscal Responsibility Act’s [NEPA] reforms,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a key negotiator for House Republicans on the issue, said in a statement to The Hill.


A spokesperson for Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) expressed a similar sentiment.


“Any steps the Biden White House takes to undermine the commonsense permitting reforms achieved in the FRA will undermine our ability to work in good faith on this issue moving forward,” the spokesperson said via email. 


The comments — on an issue area that Democrats and Republicans have for months sought to reach a compromise — follows a proposed rule that in part aimed to implement the changes that were written into the law as part of a deal to lift the debt ceiling. 


Some critics argued that stipulations included in that rule could slow projects down and detract from the goal of speeding up approvals. 


The White House pushed back, saying the rule implemented agreed-upon compromises in the Fiscal Responsibility Act but left out further “radical” GOP ideas. 


“The Bipartisan Permitting Reform Implementation Rule fully and faithfully implements new permitting efficiencies directed by Congress through the Fiscal Responsibility Act,” the spokesperson said in an email to The Hill. 


“What it does not do is adopt radical provisions of the House Republicans’ Builder Act — provisions that were not part of the bipartisan deal — such as changes that would limit environmental reviews to ignore a project’s effects on climate change or ignore the cumulative effects of adding more and more pollution to already overburdened communities,” the spokesperson added. 


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