Senate Votes on Sensible Reforms to Fix Broken Environmental Permitting System

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In a vote that brings big implications for energy, mining, and infrastructure, the Senate voted today for reforms that would make improvements in the nation’s environmental permitting process – but the lack of bipartisan support bodes ill for permit reform ever becoming law.

The Senate vote today (under the auspices of the Congressional Review Act) was 50-47 in favor of an effort to reinstate reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Trump-era rule had restored NEPA’s original focus on the project itself, like the environmental impact of a pipeline, rather than other, more tenuous impacts, like how that energy might eventually be used – all un-done by the Biden administration.

Statement by CEI Senior Fellow Ben Lieberman:

“Today’s Congressional Review Act vote on the Biden administration’s attempt to repeal Trump era reforms to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) shows that there is no bipartisan support for permitting reforms. On the surface, permitting reform should enjoy broad-based support.

  • Proponents of plentiful and affordable domestic energy would welcome a curtailment of the NEPA-based war on America’s fossil fuels.
  • Environmentalists both in and out of the Biden administration should also want to see wind and solar projects more expeditiously approved—especially if there is to be any hope of achieving the massive energy transition on a time scale they claim is necessary to avert climate disaster.
  • Electric vehicle proponents should recognize the need to ramp up domestic mining and processing of the minerals needed to make the vehicles, especially given how many such proposed new mines are currently being blocked under NEPA.
  • And both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge the need for transportation infrastructure improvements, which are often caught up in NEPA delays.  

“Nonetheless, it is clear that permitting reform lacks sufficient bipartisan support to become law. It is important to note that, as part of the Chuck Schumer/Joe Manchin deal on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, Senator Manchin was promised that the Senate would consider permitting reforms in the near future. These reforms are very unlikely to be passed ” > View the full analysis on

Statement by CEI Senior Fellow Mario Loyola:

“According to President Biden, climate change is ‘code red for humanity’; but all he’s done is roll back the infrastructure permitting reforms that would have been crucial for any clean energy transition. The Trump administration made common sense NEPA reforms that built on those of the Obama administration. President Biden would have done himself and all Americans a lot of good if he had built on those reforms instead of tearing them down.” > View related analysis, The Real Roadblock to Biden’s Climate Agenda


CEI Comments on Biden Proposal

Final NEPA Rule Will Encourage Anti-Development Lawsuits Against Fossil Fuel Projects