Energy Investments On Hold
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The successful construction of 351 energy projects stalled by legal and regulatory roadblocks could produce an immediate $1.1 trillion boost to the economy and create 1.9 million jobs annually, according to a new study. Over 20 years, the projects would add $3.4 trillion in GDP, including $1.4 trillion in employment earnings, and an additional one million or more jobs per year.
The “Progress Denied” study looks at the potential short- and long-term economic and jobs benefits of energy projects found on the U.S. Chamber’s Project No Project website, an inventory of renewable and conventional energy projects in 49 states that have been held up by activist groups. These “Not In My Back Yard” folks, or NIMBYs as they are called, block energy projects by organizing local opposition, changing zoning laws, opposing permits, filing lawsuits, and bleeding projects dry of their financing.
“One of the most surprising findings of the Project No Project inventory is that it is just as difficult to build a wind farm in the U.S. as it is to build a coal-fired power plant. In fact, roughly 45% of the challenged projects that were identified are renewable energy projects,” says William Kovacs, the Chamber's senior vice president of Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs. “Often, many of the same groups urging us to think globally about renewable energy are acting locally to stop the very same renewable energy projects that could create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Activists have so far prevented a single offshore wind farm from being built in the United States. For example, a local watchdog group called Save Jones Beach has successfully stalled a project for a 940-megawatt wind farm 12 to 15 miles off the coast near Jones Beach in New York since 2008. The proposal is going through environmental and economic scrutiny and no timeline has been given for its completion.
The Cape Wind project in Massachusetts appears to finally be moving forward after a decade-long delay caused by a small, single-minded group opposed to the project. The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound has managed to slow down permitting for the 130-turbine, 468- megawatt wind farm that would employ approximately 1,140 workers.
“The real issue is that a wealthy NIMBY group has tried to obstruct and block this project every step of the way,” says Cape Wind and Energy Management Inc. President Jim Gordon. “They’ve filed appeals on practically every permit ever issued, and they’ve lost each time. All it takes is a few people to hold up job creation, energy independence, and a whole new renewable energy industry that the Department of Energy predicts will create 40,000 jobs by 2020.”
Environmental groups have also held up the development of a $6 billion coal-to-liquids plant in Wellsville, Ohio. The Baard Energy plant was designed to capture and ultimately sequester at least 85% of all carbon dioxide produced while creating as many as 3,500 jobs and attracting other businesses to the area. But legal challenges to environmental permits from Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council have caused Baard Energy to abandon its effort to secure a U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee for the plant and delayed financing for years.
“Lawmakers and the American public should come to understand that our permitting process is broken,” says Kovacs. “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 2009 economic stimulus bill provides evidence of the how a quicker permitting process can facilitate much needed infrastructure investment. That legislation expedited the permitting process for “shovel ready projects,” granting more than 179,000 of the 250,000 projects covered by the bill the most expeditious form of compliance treatment possible from the National Environmental Policy Act. As a result, projects and jobs sprung up seemingly overnight.
The Chamber is urging government leaders to make timely decisions on state energy projects, streamline regulatory and licensing processes, establish federal siting authority on power transmission across state lines, and provide financial incentives and loan guarantees to encourage development of new energy technologies.
Learn more and read the study at pnp.uschamber.com