OPINION: Congress must break permitting shackles keeping US from energy independence

Lame Duck congressional session is always met with a jam-packed agenda. As the days rapidly tick by for the 117th Congress to finish their work, so is the time left to pass necessary permitting reform. So far, efforts to expedite federal permitting for infrastructure projects have stalled. We need Congress to come together to enact bipartisan reform to speed up project development for the infrastructure projects Americans depend on, both across the nation and right here in Buckeye state.

In Ohio, the energy sector employs hundreds of thousands of workers, and every region of the state benefits in one way or another from the domestic production of oil, natural gas and coal. But, whether it’s a plan to build additional pipelines in Ohio or a larger-scale federal project, the federal review and permitting process for building is a slow, taxing effort. On average, it takes 4.5 years for a new energy infrastructure project to clear permitting. The barrage of regulatory hurdles and protracted legal challenges delays, and sometimes kills, important new energy projects and their intended benefits.

Luckily, there is support to be found on both sides of the aisle. Rather than an issue that will divide groups, legislators can find a path forward to reform the permitting process – freeing it from unnecessary obstacles and creating positive impacts that will be directly felt in Ohio.

As a native, I understand the role the energy industry plays in Ohio, creating jobs and supporting our economy. In my career, I have become very familiar with the policies regulating traditional and clean energy, from supporting candidates who sought improvements for energy production to serving as deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy. What was a priority then, is still a priority now – making energy affordable and reliable. And a vital way to lower energy prices is by boosting production right here at home.

Increasing production within our borders will generate new work, pairing good jobs with Ohio’s skilled workforce. As our reliable, domestic energy supply grows, prices in turn will fall, making energy more affordable for customers and small businesses in this state and all over the country. Reforming the permitting process is a strong first step in this direction. As the ease and efficiency of building energy infrastructure improves, shovel-ready projects will create jobs, boost economic growth, and produce a stable supply of power for decades to come.

In order to capitalize on these benefits in the Buckeye state, we need Congress to help us realize the full potential of reliable energy production in America. And there is no better time to act than now. Bipartisan support for permitting reform is growing stronger. During this lame duck session, legislators have an invaluable opportunity to remove some of the shackles hampering the permitting process. Enacting new rules for this reform, the U.S. will be better positioned to boost domestic production. If Congress succeeds in passing meaningful reforms to the permitting process, they will return America to the path of energy independence. As a result, Ohio customers, workers and businesses will be some of the first to reap the rewards of the subsequent job creation and economic growth.

See Chairman Paduchik’s Op-Ed in the Columbus Dispatch.