Comprehensive GOP bill led by Capito would reform nation’s permitting, project reviews

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) on Sept. 12 led more than 40 Republicans in offering legislation to reform federal permitting and project reviews.

“Since our calls for action and offers to see legislative text from the permitting ‘deal’ remain unheeded, Republicans are introducing this legislation today to deliver solutions to the roadblocks, delays, and postponements of key infrastructure projects across the country,” said Sen. Capito on Monday. 

As the sponsor of the Simplify Timelines and Assure Regulatory Transparency (START) Act, S. 4815, which now has 45 cosponsors, Sen. Capito said the bill will provide regulatory certainty to states, expedite permitting and review processes, codify substantive environmental regulatory reforms, and expedite permitting of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, an under-construction natural gas pipeline that will run from southern Virginia to northwestern West Virginia. 

“Republicans are unified in working to deliver needed permitting reform, and this legislation is a blueprint for how we can help communities benefit from being able to finally get critical projects across the finish line,” said Sen. Capito, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which is considering the bill.

If enacted, S. 4815 would codify several Trump administration items, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations; the Navigable Waters Protection Rule’s definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act; and the Section 401 Certification Rule under the Clean Water Act to prevent state actions that unreasonably block energy projects, according to a two-page bill summary provided by Sen. Capito’s office.

The bill also would prohibit the use and adoption of the Biden administration’s interim estimates for the “social cost of greenhouse gasses” and any other estimates that may raise gasoline prices, the summary says, and would codify key elements of the One Federal Decision framework for energy projects, including timely approvals for projects, permitting review schedules for projects that are no longer than two years, and limitations on the page length of environmental documents.

Additionally, the measure would grant states the sole authority to promulgate or enforce any regulation, guidance, or permit requirement regarding hydraulic fracturing on or under any land within their boundaries, and would allow states to develop a regulatory program governing the leasing and permitting of energy activities on its federal land.

And among several other proposed provisions, the measure would expedite the approval for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project within 21 days of enactment, states the summary.

Among the members cosponsoring S. 4815 are U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Todd Young (R-IN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Steve Daines (R-MT), Richard Burr (R-NC), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Rob Portman (R-OH).