Playing the Long Game: Expediting Permitting Without Compromising Protections
The Biden Administration’s efforts to promote clean energy have prompted calls for permit reform. A clean energy economy demands a global increase in mineral production, and some suggest environmental standards must be loosened. This premise fails to distinguish among causes of delay in the permitting process, and increased demand for minerals should not overshadow the productive purposes served by permitting. At the same time, there are opportunities to improve permitting without compromising health and safety standards. This Article recommends three actions to expedite mine permit processing times without sacrificing analytical rigor: avoid delay caused by insufficient agency capacity; reduce delay by making the legal structure, permitting requirements, and information more transparent and publicly available; and use the National Environmental Policy Act process to avoid delay caused by uncoordinated interagency requirements. These tools can promote efficiency without eliminating rigor and without waiting for statutory or regulatory reforms.