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Too Slow, Joe

NRECA calls out Biden for lagging infrastructure modernization

For rural communities and electrical co0peratives, the White House's infrastructure solutions aren't making the cut.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) released an official statement May 11 saying that President Biden’s “permitting action plan”—an addendum to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act—fails to deliver the necessary reforms to streamline environmental reviews and permitting of electric transmission and other projects to modernize America’s electric infrastructure. Such projects are essential to maintaining the safe, affordable and reliable delivery of electricity across the nation.

“The administration’s plan fails to address the root of the environmental review and permitting problems plaguing the electric sector,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. “As we plan for a future that depends on electricity as the primary energy source for most of the American economy, the streamlined siting and permitting of electric infrastructure projects will be a key success factor. Robust reforms are needed to remove barriers and accelerate the construction of modern energy infrastructure.”

For years, electric cooperatives have encouraged policymakers to support solutions that modernize the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and facilitate coordinated, consistent, and timely agency decision-making. Recent advocacy includes encouraging early contact with state legislators for things like EV charging stations. Lack of federal coordination, inconsistent processes, and protracted litigation have forced communities to endure costly project delays, some of which led to project cancelation, and threats to electric reliability.

The Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project near Dubuque, Iowa in summmer 2021.

The 102-mile Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project (pictured, above) in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota is cited by NRECA as a project needing significant reforms that it's not getting. Work on the 345,000-volt project began in 2014 to bring renewable energy online in the upper Midwest. Nearly 115 renewable energy projects are dependent upon the completion of this transmission line. The project’s timeline was jeopardized after a court ruling blocked it from crossing the Mississippi River, which could significantly delay and drive up the project’s costs.

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