- - Monday, July 4, 2022

Following a remarkable renaissance for American oil and gas that brought our nation prosperity, security and energy independence, President Biden should have followed the adage to “leave well enough alone.” Instead, he unleashed an unprecedented assault on the industry beginning the very first day of his administration, which continues unabated. Following the same executive order that canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, Mr. Biden has instructed the United States Army Corps of Engineers to undo a key federal permit governing energy infrastructure.

Authorized under the Clean Water Act, Nationwide Permit 12 cuts red tape for oil and gas developers when it comes to time-consuming government oversight if their projects have little impact on climate or waterways. But the Army Corps’ March 2022 notice said the administration wants to implement “potential off-ramps” that would require energy companies to undergo a full review, slowing down needed projects and repairs to existing infrastructure.

Their proposal for review is absurd for several reasons.

First, the changes suggested in the notice undermine NWP 12’s very purpose: Improving efficiency. As it stands, the permit speeds up an otherwise lengthy and unnecessary project review process by the federal government which state environmental agencies, like ours in Montana, already regulate. Reversing NWP 12 will enable radicals within the Biden administration to add regulatory obstacles at will, threatening the energy sector with more red tape at the worst possible time. 

As the attorney general of Montana, I see the effects of the energy crisis daily and one thing is certain: There is no room for a regulatory backlog when it comes to providing citizens with efficient energy. American families are grappling with record inflation and gas prices that are already more than $5 per gallon in many states.

On a practical level, the review process discourages growth by stalling energy projects under NWP 12’s jurisdiction. Knowing that the Biden administration may soon rewrite NWP to satiate the demands of extreme environmentalists, companies with upcoming infrastructure projects will likely delay or cancel them to avoid throwing good money after bad. It is not worth risking their stakeholders’ capital and putting millions of dollars on the line only for Big Government bureaucracy to dampen their progress. 

NWP 12 already underwent a review by the Corps in 2021. Congress intended the nationwide permits to last five years. This proposed rapid-fire re-review of NWP 12 — barely a year after its most recent reissuance — will destroy whatever little confidence in the process that remains.

With Mr. Biden’s hostility toward American-made energy, that may be exactly the point. Their intentions are revealed within the notice of review itself in the form of a disordered emphasis on a green energy agenda. 

The majority of the Corps’ notice ignores the fact that the Biden administration has made the United States dependent on foreign nations for our oil supply, causing gas prices to surge and electricity bills to rise. It mentions “environmental justice” four times before referencing the devastation caused by the administration’s own policies.

By the time the notice addresses the “unstable nature of energy production,” it’s clear American energy independence has become an afterthought to them. Thus, the review of NWP 12 is nothing but a political weapon used to advance the administration’s main priority: forcing a green energy agenda at the expense of American families and businesses.

To combat the administration’s anti-energy agenda, I recently filed formal comments opposing this useless notice of review. Attorneys general from 20 other states joined me in imploring the Corps to exercise commonsense, abandoning the planned review, and continuing to issue permits in accordance with its statutory duty.

Clearly, the Biden administration’s planned review does not address the pressing problem facing the nation: historically high energy prices. Instead, it is yet another assault on American energy by the radicals in charge of the Biden administration and it seeks to solve problems that do not exist. Only if Mr. Biden comes to his senses and ends his anti-energy policies can we once again enjoy the immense benefits from oil and gas produced right here in America. 

• Austin Knudsen is Montana’s attorney general.

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