Podesta: Cut energy permitting talks from debt ceiling fight

The two parties have both made permitting reform a centerpiece of their policy and political efforts, but they remain far apart on specifics. The fight threatens to further complicate negotiations over lifting the debt ceiling given that House Republicans included permitting reform in their list of demands for passing legislation that would agree to pay money the United States owes its creditors.

In his presentation, Podesta laid out the White House vision of hastening permits that focused almost exclusively on electric transmission projects to bring more renewable energy projects to the grid. It was in stark contrast with a bill that GOP Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia released last week that overwhelmingly focused on oil and gas permitting.

Podesta didn’t shut down the idea of negotiating with Republicans, but was more optimistic about ideas put forward by Sen. Joe Manchin (W-Va.), as well as proposals expected from Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware.

“We’re definitely open to working with Republicans,” Podesta said. “We think there’s opportunity in the Senate, especially with Sen. Carper and Sen. Manchin.”

But the White House also claimed that it has already sped up permitting compared to the Trump administration. It cited a faster turnaround for environmental impact reviews, which involves a laborious process that can take years, and the Department of Energy using the Federal Power Act to process transmission project applications within two years.

“The Administration is acting to move projects forward, using its existing authority to accelerate the federal permitting process,” the White House said in a fact sheet released Wednesday.

Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate adviser now with the Progressive Policy Institute, said Podesta’s remarks appear to be “a recognition that adding one intractable issue on top of another generally isn’t a good legislative strategy.”