Sens. Hickenlooper and Cassidy Make Bipartisan Call for Permitting Reform
Last week’s American Petroleum Institute “State of American Energy” program provided hope that a bipartisan approach to contentious energy development issues may have a path forward in Congress.
Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and John Hickenlooper (D-CO), both members of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, recently participated in an API panel earlier that covered a variety of hot button topics for energy producers, including limiting methane emissions and permitting reform.
Both Senators struck a collaborative tone throughout the panel, especially on the topic of addressing climate change. Sen. Cassidy, in particular, complimented Sen. Hickenlooper’s background as a geologist from America’s fifth largest fossil fuel producing state.
“It’s great to work with John on the Natural Resources Committee, and frankly he should be one of your greatest allies,” Cassidy told the API audience, referencing what he sees as Sen. Hickenlooper’s ability to facilitate collaboration between the energy industry and the Senate Democratic majority.
One topic there was clear agreement on was the need for permitting reform, not only to meet global energy demand and ensure domestic energy security, but also to address global climate change. Sen. Hickenlooper told the audience:
“If you care about climate change and you want to accelerate our efforts to address it we’ve got to be able to get permits for transmission or pipelines faster […] We can’t spend 15 or 20 years (moving) that energy around.”
Sen. Cassidy doubled down on the importance of reforming the permitting process for energy infrastructure broadly – from power lines to pipelines – and suggested that there is potential for bipartisan support in the next Congress.
Both members also argued for policy adjustments in Congress to account for emissions associated with energy produced in foreign countries with higher emissions intensity and lax environmental regulations. As Sen. Hickenlooper observed, the United States has some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the world for oil and natural gas production, and the domestic energy industry can play an important role when it comes to methane measurement and management.
Amanda Eversole, Executive Vice President at the American Petroleum Institute, highlighted API’s Environmental Partnership initiative among members to measure and limit their methane emissions:
“There’s more we can do, and we look forward to working together.”
EPA data shows these proactive initiatives on the part of industry are already proving successful, with each major producing basin recording reduced total methane volumes over the last five years while simultaneously achieving record production. Similarly, the recent COP28 conference in Dubai also produced a pledge from 50 domestic and international energy firms to cut methane emissions to near zero by 2030.
Due to these voluntary industry efforts, alongside the country’s strict environmental and operational regulations, American oil and natural gas produced on federal lands and waters – particularly in the Gulf of Mexico – has some of the lowest carbon intensity of energy sources worldwide. Yet, as Sen. Cassidy pointed out, the Biden administration has taken extreme measures to derail federal oil and natural gas lease sales:
“The idea that you are not going to develop oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico is some ideologue’s idea that they are going to somehow affect global climate change by killing American jobs […] U.S. environmental standards for (producing) oil and gas offshore are the greatest in the world. We should be developing it here.” (emphasis added)
Sen. Hickenlooper, in contrast to other members of his party, firmly rejected the notion that the federal government should embrace an outright ban on federal oil and natural gas development.
“We should be looking at all the federal lands, whether we are talking about the extraction of oil and gas or solar and wind on federal lands, we need a process of prioritizing which lands are going to be best for which energy, and something we can all come together on and say ‘alright this is how we go forward,’ so we are not always at each other’s throats tying up everything.”
Bottom Line: Sens. Hickenlooper and Cassidy offered a promising endorsement of bipartisan permitting reform, citing the energy security and environmental benefits derived from producing domestic oil and natural gas under some of the world’s most rigorous safety and environmental standards.