VOICES: Reforming federal regulatory processes would help Ohio seniors and the economy

In the midst of an economy that has plagued American families and businesses, energy costs are also causing economic heartache, especially for seniors on fixed incomes. When day-to-day costs go up, they often have little to no wiggle room. Gas and utility bills represent one of the largest expenses for seniors, which is especially important in Ohio, where one in four citizens is elderly. The solution? As Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle continue their ongoing debt ceiling negotiations, the current bill under consideration has included important revisions to streamline the permitting process and unleash American energy production and infrastructure development. These additions include time limits on environmental reviews, limiting the scope of NEPA to reduce the federal government’s regulatory footprint and ensuring the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

As a major energy producing state, Ohio sorely needs permitting reform, with modernizing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the crosshairs. Cutting regulatory red tape creates new jobs, boosting an Ohio oil and gas sector that today supports around 351,000 jobs, more than three times the capacity of Ohio Stadium, and provides $55 billion of economic benefit according to new PwC data. One of us is a former lawmaker, and we urge Congress to make this a top priority. That’s because NEPA regulations are significantly slowing down energy projects of all kinds, including wind, solar, natural gas, transmission lines and other infrastructure projects. With demand for energy growing, especially clean energy, we need a modern and swift permitting approval process that doesn’t throw up unnecessary roadblocks to energy production. The more energy on the market, the lower prices will be for Ohioans asking for real relief.

While federal lawmakers created NEPA in the 1970s to ensure that energy projects consider potential impacts on the environment, the law has become a major roadblock that delays - and in some cases even cancels - much-needed energy projects. This has serious consequences for Ohio, holding back our potential to grow our energy sector and keeping energy supplies from reaching consumers.

Today, Ohio is America’s seventh largest ethanol-producer in the country, with seven ethanol plants produce 740 million gallons per year. We are also a leading electricity producer, with a number of wind and solar energy projects in the works to being new energy market and help in the fight to combat climate change. In short, Ohio has shovel-ready energy projects that could meet demand and lower costs for our people and our neighbors, but lengthy permitting approval processes, especially those imposed by NEPA, can take years and allow environmental groups to stall energy projects, sometimes until they are abandoned altogether.

Outdated and clumsy regulatory processes kept important projects from bringing energy supplies to the people of Ohio, including seniors, begging real reform. Thankfully important revisions have been included in the current debt ceiling deal, but our progress shouldn’t stop there. As we near a final bill, Congress needs to come to a consensus to include all necessary permitting reform revisions this year which will ultimately increase our domestic oil and gas supply to lower energy costs, in part by ensuring regulatory processes for energy projects allow for quick and efficient approval.

Reform can come in many forms, but some elements are key. With NEPA reviews taking as much as seven years to complete, Congress should demand a time limit so energy projects are approved in time to help consumers. This should also include a statute of limitations for court challenges, keeping activists from using numerous reviews to stall projects. These basic reforms would modernize NEPA and allow important energy projects to start working to the benefit of families and businesses in Ohio and beyond instead of being stuck in regulatory mud.

More energy supply means more energy for the market, helping to lower electricity and natural gas prices and satisfy demand in times of need, benefits especially important to those on fixed incomes. In the interest of Ohioan consumers and senior citizens, Congress should act now to streamline NEPA and other regulatory processes to bring pro-growth policies back to the Buckeye State.

Saul Anuzis is the President of the 60 Plus Association, and Kevin DeWine is a former Ohio state legislator and former Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.

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