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A Permitting Lesson For Manchin On Speeding Up Energy Projects

joe manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin insists his price for supporting a major fiscal blowout was speeding up permits for energy projects such as pipelines.

To help him avoid getting snookered by his fellow Democrats, an example of what real permitting reform looks like might help.

That example comes from Germany, of all places, which this spring adopted its version of permitting reform in the face of a looming energy crisis. [bold, links added]

Berlin is desperate to build new terminals to import liquefied natural gas, and the government quickly realized its old permitting process wasn’t fit for the task.

The result is the Liquefied Natural Gas Acceleration Law, or LNG-Beschleunigungsgesetz, that took effect in June.

The law covers three terminal sites currently in development as well as several other areas, and all the surrounding waterways and the pipelines to connect the terminals to the national gas grid.

It sets out specific regulatory changes.

Most elements of the terminal projects are exempted from costly and time-consuming environmental impact reviews, for instance, including the use of nearby waterways for the water used in the regasification process.

The period for public comment and objection is shortened to weeks.

Compensation for potential environmental damage can be settled after a project is underway, rather than laboriously haggled before it’s allowed to start.

The law also aims to speed public procurement surrounding LNG projects, by easing requirements such as the participation of small companies in bids.

None of this means Germany is turning itself into a libertarian nirvana. A more stringent process still applies to permanent LNG terminals, so the Acceleration Law’s main benefit is to speed up the installation of temporary floating terminals and the necessary pipelines.

To qualify for permitting exemptions, a project must be large enough to be of national significance (the three currently under development are) and must be able to accommodate green hydrogen in the future (if that ever pans out commercially).

But there’s an important lesson here that Mr. Manchin appears to have missed: Get it in writing.

Berlin demonstrated it was serious about faster permits for energy projects by debating and then passing a law with specific provisions dictating how this speeding-up will happen.

Mr. Manchin provided his crucial vote to pass the tax and climate spending bill before permitting legislation has been written, much less passed.

We’ll soon learn if his reforms can pass and if they’ll measure up even to what the Germans have passed.

Read more at WSJ

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