Climate Tech

The Biden administration wants to expedite permitting for energy transition projects

Officials want to meet urgency of climate crisis without sacrificing environmental and social responsibility.
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Francis Scialabba

· less than 3 min read

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What do ambitious climate tech projects and teenagers in driving school have in common? They’re both just trying to get their permits.

Zoom in: The energy transition will require a lot of earth to be moved, and to move earth, you need to have your papers in order. The Biden administration released a plan last week to expedite the permitting process for energy transition projects, which can take years, and in some cases, more than a decade, to obtain permits.

Time permitting

In addition to energy-focused projects, like battery-mineral mining, energy generation, and carbon sequestration, the plan calls out other infrastructure, like broadband, water resources, and pipelines.

All of these projects require extensive evaluation before they can be green-lit. That evaluation takes place in the form of permitting, which exists to protect the communities and ecosystems surrounding such projects. And the process can take a very long time. For example…

  • Mining: In the US, the average time it took for a new hard-rock mine to receive permits was ~two years, per a 2016 GAO report. But as E&E News notes, approval times vary widely, from one month to…11 years.
  • Wind: For offshore wind in particular, it can take up to 10 years, from planning to building, to complete a new project.
  • Carbon removal: It can take six years for carbon-sequestration wells to receive permits.

The Biden administration’s plan identifies a few different levers to pull in order to speed up and bolster permitting processes. It wants to improve early inter-agency coordination, establish clear timeline goals for permitting, proactively engage communities affected by proposed projects, like tribal nations or local towns, improve agency responsiveness and support, and “adequately resource” agencies.

  • Relevant agencies have 90 days to draw up initial implementation plans for the plan.

Big picture: Faster permitting would be a boon for climate tech projects in the US, but some experts told E&E News that it’s unclear how much of a difference the administration’s plan will really make. Others emphasized that attempts to speed up permitting must meet the urgency of the climate crisis without trading off environmental and social responsibility—something the administration itself has vowed to do in releasing the plan.

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