A combination of federal, state and local regulatory red tape is preventing American businesses from creating new green energy jobs and generating more than $1 trillion in economic output. Is that acceptable with 8.9 percent unemployment and a struggling economy? Or is there a better way?
By our estimates, 351 job-creating projects promoting energy across the country are currently snarled by a broken permitting process and by a regulatory system that fails to ensure timely reviews and actions. (Click here to see which projects are being delayed and denied in your state.) If allowed to go forward, these projects could produce a $1.1 trillion short-term boost to the economy and create 1.9 million jobs annually.
The flawed regulatory system is also open to manipulation. Some environmental activists and their allies — who should be the strongest green energy supporters of all — are using every resource at their disposal to block, delay or cancel clean energy projects.
They have organized local opposition, changed zoning laws, opposed permits, filed lawsuits and bled projects dry of their financing. Call it “green tape” bureaucracy. Their efforts are undermining job creation and slowing the adoption of environmentally friendly energy technologies.
Lawmakers and the American public must recognize that our broken permitting process and extreme groups are denying projects the opportunity to be fairly considered on their merits. To be clear, we are not saying that ill-conceived projects should be allowed to move forward. Rather, all projects should be given a fair chance to prove their worth in the market within a reasonable period of time. And if a project is worthy, it should receive a permit.
The discussion is beginning in Washington about improving the regulatory process. What is urgently needed now is a careful consideration of how all these permitting obstacles, uncertainties and time delays can be addressed to speed up the processing, approval decisions and development of many pending job-creating projects. Private investors and developers are prepared to fund, build and operate energy projects that could materially increase gross domestic product and create jobs — but only if policymakers remove obstacles.
No one objects to a fair and timely process whereby projects are examined and the affected communities can be heard. But reasonableness and common sense must carry the day.
The truth is that it takes too long to build almost anything in our country today — even clean, green and renewable energy resources that create jobs, enhance our energy security and improve our environment. It’s time for change.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.