Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies working to promote a thriving economy and expanded opportunity for all Americans through sound public policy.
LeAnne Redick Wilson
Senior Vice President
Business Roundtable (BRT) is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies working to promote sound public policy and a thriving U.S. economy.
Like other forms of infrastructure, America’s energy infrastructure is a key driver of job creation, growth and competitiveness throughout the economy. Maintaining a modern, flexible and secure network of electric power transmission and distribution lines, oil and natural gas pipelines, and storage facilities is essential to delivering affordable and reliable energy to U.S. businesses and consumers, promoting growth across all sectors of the economy, and supporting the country’s thriving domestic energy industry.
Unlike other forms of public infrastructure, American energy infrastructure is largely privately owned, operated and financed. The major obstacle for transportation infrastructure renewal — funding — is not a significant problem for energy infrastructure. Until quite recently in fact, privately financed U.S. energy infrastructure renewal has been an American success story. However, technology and policy drivers are rapidly changing the way energy is produced and consumed in the United States, requiring a faster pace of investment and modernization.
Currently, the regulatory framework and permitting systems that surround the energy sector were designed for another age, locking in a pace of infrastructure modernization and expansion that is out of step with the energy sector’s rapidly changing needs. Congress and the Administration have a unique opportunity to accelerate investments in energy infrastructure by updating regulations, establishing strong investment incentives and streamlining permitting processes — ultimately putting more private-sector capital to work for America’s farms, factories and households.
The entire U.S. electricity system is experiencing nearly unprecedented change, including slower load growth, retiring traditional baseload capacity, declining costs and increasing deployment of renewable and distributed energy resources, policy changes at the state and federal levels, and rapidly evolving technology. These changes are transforming how end-use customers and electric companies interact.
Advances in drilling and resource extraction technologies have made natural gas one of the fastest growing energy resources in the United States. The abundance of natural gas offers an opportunity for the United States to strengthen its energy independence and security, while providing nearly all sectors of the economy an affordable energy source and feedstock. Substantial investments in natural gas infrastructure — including pipelines and storage and export facilities — are needed to fully capitalize on the benefits that this affordable, abundant domestic energy source has to offer.
The ability to produce, refine and transport oil is essential to U.S. economic competitiveness. Following several decades of steady decline, U.S. oil production has risen sharply since 2008, presenting a remarkable opportunity to improve the nation’s energy security, support increased industrial activity and make energy more affordable for American households. However, significant infrastructure investments must be made to fully leverage the benefits and opportunities afforded by abundant domestic oil resources.
Energy infrastructure is subject to a complex regime of regulatory, permitting and siting requirements at all levels of government. Actions taken by the current and previous Administrations have made meaningful inroads toward simplifying this complex regulatory landscape and reducing the regulatory burden.
The case for investing in America’s energy infrastructure systems is clear, as are the challenges. With private-sector owners and operators of the country’s energy transmission and storage systems poised to inject new capital into upgrading and expanding these networks, Congress and the Administration have an important role to play in creating the conditions necessary to accelerate these investments. Enactment of FAST-41, a fast-track process for infrastructure permitting, and recent executive orders issued by the current and previous Administrations provides a strategic and actionable path forward to improving the nation’s approach to permitting energy infrastructure. It now falls to federal agencies to fully and promptly implement the reforms and processes laid out in FAST-41 and these orders and to all levels of government to look for opportunities to update regulations, establish strong investment incentives and streamline permitting processes.
The federal government should continue to improve the efficiency of federal permitting processes in an environmentally sound manner, consistent with federal law and policy. This work includes aggressive implementation of Executive Order No. 13766 (Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects), the reforms required in FAST-41 and Executive Order No. 13807 (Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects). Specific actions should include:
The NEPA review process often takes more than a year to complete and is increasingly being used by project opponents to litigate against validly issued permits. In conjunction with E.O. 13807, the Council on Environmental Quality should undertake a timely and thorough review of the NEPA review process, including options for ensuring that agencies have adequate resources and staffing capacity to handle NEPA review requirements in an efficient and timely manner. Aggressive implementation of E.O. 13807 would constitute a meaningful step that could be taken to streamline and shorten environmental reviews without affecting environmental quality.
Major interstate transmission lines face significant regulatory hurdles. Existing statutory provisions in Section 216 of the Federal Power Act, as enacted through the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005), have not provided an expedited means for siting nationally significant transmission lines, which was the intent of the legislation.
Improved coordination among federal agencies, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Army Corps of Engineers, state regulators and other stakeholders, is needed to address the complexity, unpredictability and inefficiency of transmission planning, siting and cost allocation decisions for interstate and interregional transmission projects. It is also needed to address the complex planning and infrastructure decisions associated with hardening the grid and accounting for the increased deployment of distributed energy resources — particularly for those transmission projects that cross federal lands. Within this context, executive agencies should move quickly to fully implement E.O. 13807 by identifying “energy right-of-way corridors” and expediting permitting review processes for energy infrastructure on federal lands.
In accordance with Section 219 of the Federal Power Act, as added by EPAct 2005, FERC should continue to provide transparent rate incentives for cost-effective upgrades to the nation’s transmission infrastructure to facilitate grid modernization and support competitive wholesale electricity markets. FERC also should approve returns on equity that reflect the need for and risks of new investments in transmission, physical resilience and cyber security, and energy storage assets.
FERC, DOT, DOE and the Environmental Protection Agency should continue to provide a stable regulatory environment for natural gas and oil pipeline investments that is consistent with the following guidelines:
For more than two decades, NAFTA has supported jobs and the economy in the United States. Successful negotiations to update NAFTA should expand on, not diminish, the many benefits this U.S. trade agreement has already created. Source
International Trade and investment supports jobs and economic growth in every state, and now supports an estimated 41 million American jobs. U.S. trade-related employment grew three and a half times faster than total U.S. employment between 2004 and 2014.
Globally engaged U.S. companies create jobs, pay higher wages and increase economic growth in every U.S. state and the District of Columbia. For the United States as a whole, U.S. globally engaged companies directly employed 23.3 million American workers in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, and paid average annual compensation of $78,000, which is 40 percent higher than the average $56,000 annual compensation paid to workers employed by other U.S. businesses.