On March 30, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the ABC-supported H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, in a bipartisan 225-204 vote, with four Democrats supporting and only one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., opposing the bill.
Ahead of the vote, ABC sent a key vote letter to the House detailing ABC’s support for the bill.
H.R. 1 contains several permitting reform provisions, including the ABC-supported BUILDER Act, all of which will go a long way toward eliminating unnecessary delays that cause budget overruns in construction. The BUILDER Act codifies key elements of the One Federal Decision Framework, including development by the lead agency of a joint schedule; procedures to elevate delays or disputes; preparation of a single environmental impact statement; and joint Record of Decision—all to the extent practicable, set, reasonable time limits are imposed for environmental reviews and establish reasonable page limits for environmental documents.
H.R. 1 also includes important threshold considerations for agencies assessing whether the National Environmental Policy Act applies to a proposed activity or is otherwise fulfilled through another statute. The legislation also includes key reforms to the NEPA judicial process, requiring claimants to have participated meaningfully in the NEPA process before filing suit and providing a reasonable timeline of 120 days to file those lawsuits.
Further, the Water Quality Certification and Energy Project Improvement Act is included in H.R. 1, which would streamline the permitting process under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act and clarify Section 401’s focus on water quality. This provision would codify ABC-supported reforms to the 401 process to ensure that states do not deny certification to projects for reasons outside of the section’s scope.
Additionally, H.R. 1 focuses on expanding American energy production potential by repealing certain provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act and increasing domestic energy production.
The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate, where it is unlikely to be considered as a whole, as President Joe Biden has issued a veto threat via a Statement of Administration policy opposing H.R. 1. However, as leaders in the Senate continue to discuss several permitting reform solutions, H.R. 1 addresses many of the key negotiation points on the issue from the House majority.